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Opioid Withdrawal Symptoms, Timeline and Detox Process

by | Jul 26, 2022 | Addiction, All Posts | 0 comments

What Are Opioids?

Opioids are a class of drugs that contain illegal drugs such as heroin, fentanyl (a form of synthetic opioids), and also pain relief medicine that can be obtained legally through a medical subscription. Some examples include hydrocodone, morphine, oxycodone, tramadol, codeine, oxymorphone, meperidine, tapentadol, and a range of others.

All forms of opioids are related chemically, and they interact and communicate with the opioid receptors contained within the nerve cells that are found in the brain and the body. Opioids attach to those receptors and can cause varying effects, including blocking pain. They can potentially reduce anxiety, and may also trigger the brain to release dopamine into the system.

Opioid-Use Disorder

Opioid-use disorder refers to the continual use of opioids that can lead to physical and mental impairment. It may also refer to the patterns of use that can potentially result in severe mental distress or even physical damage. Addiction to opioids is described as being severe, moderate, or mild.

What Are the Withdrawal Symptoms of Opioids?

Users of opioids may experience withdrawal symptoms that range from acute to severe, and this will be dependent on how much they have taken if they have a preexisting medical condition that could be worsened or affected by opioid usage and other external factors.

Some of the acute withdrawal symptoms associated with opioid use may include feelings of nausea, diarrhea, a need to vomit, and a runny nose.

The more moderately severe or extremely severe symptoms of opioid withdrawal include high blood pressure, pains in the bones and muscles, anxiety, a rise in body temperature, and a dangerously high heart rate.

How Many Days Do Opioid Withdrawal Symptoms Last?

The different types of opioids available will create varying withdrawal symptoms, and therefore, how long the symptoms last will be entirely dependent on the strength of the drugs taken, and the manner of the drug use (i.e., how it was taken).

For instance, opioids that include heavier drugs such as heroin are likely to induce longer-lasting withdrawal symptoms and put the user at an increased risk, since the drugs have a much more devasting effect on the body.

Withdrawal symptoms also differ in the same way that the effects of the drugs differ from person to person, since everyone’s body and brain chemistry reacts differently to varying stimuli.

However, in general, heroin and other forms of opioids that are more acute in terms of effect will likely create withdrawal symptoms after 8-12 hours of the drug having been taken. The worst of the symptoms is reported to occur between 1-3 days after the drug has been used, and these symptoms may last up to 7 days after initial use.

Short-Acting Opioids

Opioid types that are immediate-release and can include oxycodone, fentanyl, morphine, etc. (also known as short-acting opioids) can potentially cause withdrawal symptoms that can last for up to 10 days. The symptoms can kick in between 8-24 hours after initial use.

Long-Acting Opioids

Opioid types that are designed to induce an extended or a more controlled release can include morphine, fentanyl, hydrocodone, etc., and these opioid variants can lead to withdrawal symptoms that may last anywhere up to 14 days after initial usage. These opioids tend to kick in after 36 hours of the drug having been taken.

How Long Does It Take for Your Body To Get Rid of Opioids?

As stated before, this is all dependent on the doses, the strength of the opioids taken, how they were taken, and taking into account the health and current condition of the opiate user. Going cold turkey with any hard drugs is going to be a real challenge, especially with opioids, and therefore, refraining from taking the drugs will be the first difficulty.

If the user is successful in refraining from taking the drugs, and they have managed to overcome the withdrawal symptoms, they will need to seek treatment from a healthcare professional and determine whether or not there are any opioids still left in their system.

Long-Term Withdrawal Symptoms

Occasionally drugs can get stuck or take time to make their way through the body, and as a result, this could induce the effects of opioids, and users may even experience symptoms a long time after the initial usage of the drugs.

Therefore, getting treatment from a medical professional will help the user to reach clarity in terms of understanding if the drugs are completely out of their system, as well as getting advice on diagnosis or treatment options once they decide to address their addiction.

The Clinical Opiate Withdrawal Scale

The Clinical Opiate Withdrawal Scale (also known as COWS) is a scale that is used to treat people addicted to opioids. It includes 11 different items that could be used by clinicians in order to treat pain and help to manage symptoms of withdrawal.

The scale also helps to reveal mental health indicators that should be considered, as well as properly concluding how severe the symptoms of the user are, and understanding the best way to treat them.

By addressing the early symptoms, clinicians can potentially prescribe other opioids or other drugs that may help to lessen the severity of the symptoms the user is experiencing. By tracking withdrawal signs and symptoms over time, clinicians can accurately predict how long the feelings are likely to last, and this may help with prescribing better forms of medication to the patient.

The scale could also be used to provide advice on diagnosis or treatment options, suggesting opioid medications to users. It could also be used in conjunction with other resources such as the patient’s medical history, in order to determine the best long-term courses of action in regard to treatment.

Is Opiate Usage Life-Threatening?

In short, medical professionals have not found opiate usage to be life-threatening, although the withdrawal symptoms can be very difficult to tolerate. The only real concern about opioid abuse is whether or not the user has preexisting health conditions.

If they do, the effects of opioid usage or its accompanying withdrawal symptoms could trigger problems with the medical conditions that the user is also dealing with, and this could potentially lead to a life-threatening situation.

However, as with all drugs, an overdose could lead to death, and users may also be at risk during the process of detoxing from opiate use. For instance, they could experience a heart attack or complete heart failure, or they could experience extreme dehydration, and these conditions could occur as a result of vomiting too much, or not resolving a continuing issue with diarrhea.

What To Do In The Event Of An Opioid Overdose

According to NIDA (the National Institute on Drug Abuse), an opioid overdose can potentially be reversed if the drug naloxone is available on hand and is given straight away. However, in a medical emergency, timing is everything, and the best immediate course of action is to seek help from professionals and get the user to an emergency department as soon as possible.

Quitting Opioids and How To Approach Detoxification

There are many different options available to people who are seeking to overcome their addiction to opioids. One temporary solution during the detoxification process is to use opioid partial agonist medications such as methadone or buprenorphine, which can potentially alleviate some of the withdrawal symptoms a user might be experiencing.

Medical professionals prescribing opioids of this caliber do so in order to help gradually wean someone off of opioids. They can be given to users on a long-term basis, as a way to minimize or keep their opioid addiction at bay, as well as to prevent the potential for a drug overdose.

However, even medically prescribed opioid medication must be monitored frequently, as this can create opioid-dependent patients seeking to avoid the severe pain and symptoms of withdrawal associated with opioid use. Therefore, in order to avoid opioid dependence, users may need to seek therapy or counseling from a medical facility.

Medically-Assisted Opioid Detoxification

Another recommended move is to avoid undergoing the detoxification process alone or without having the proper medical knowledge required. Therefore, it might be wise to seek temporary hospitalization for this period. The user can be monitored and have access to medication exactly when they need it, instead of taking the chance of detoxing at home, potentially being too late, and inadvertently causing an accidental overdose.

As mentioned previously, seeking medical guidance from healthcare professionals is essential in the detoxification process. This is due to the fact that things can change rapidly. Medical professionals are better able to assess a person’s condition, and thereby provide the correct prescription opioids that will help them to overcome their addiction, as well as begin their journey to recovery.

Getting Help With Opioid Addiction

If users are seeking a safe space to detox properly and gain access to other useful facilities and resources, a center such as Cirque Lodge can allow them to take advantage of a luxury, state-of-the-art addiction treatment facility that will help them to detox, get therapy for opioid use disorder, have access to counseling and support groups, get back on top of things, and address the root causes of their addiction.

Individuals can gain access to residential treatment facilities, hospital treatment, therapy, medication, monitoring from trusted physicians, and much more. Support and useful resources are only a click away. To find out more and begin your recovery process from substance abuse, click here.

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