The Opiate Recovery Timeline: Withdrawal and Detox Explained

Opiate withdrawal and detox is a painful process that can take weeks or months to complete. Understanding the timeline of opiate withdrawal will help you understand what you are going through and prepare for how long it may take to feel better.

Being addicted to opioids isn’t a choice. Continued use of these substances leads to biological changes, and as a result, your body develops a need for them that is hard to control.

It is, however, a choice to seek treatment. Going through detox and rehabilitation allows you to get your life back and escape possible death.

Keep reading to find out more about the opiate recovery timeline, including detox and withdrawal symptoms.

Opioids Versus Opiates

Opioids are a classification of pain-relieving drugs, and it’s an umbrella term that includes the category opiates, which are pain-relievers derived from opium.

Examples of opiates include codeine, heroin, and morphine.

The distinction is important because many professionals use the terms “opioids” and “opiates” interchangeably. This is due to the fact that they work the same in the body and share withdrawal symptoms.

The Purpose of Detox

Detoxing from a drug is meant to cleanse the body of its presence. During the removal of the drug, a range of symptoms occur that cause discomfort and potential relapse if not monitored.

This highlights the importance of seeking professional help during this difficult time.

Professional detox can either be medically assisted or clinically managed. In medically assisted detox, professionals monitor your vitals and recovery, administer medication when necessary, and keep you on the road to recovery.

Clinically-managed detox involves having a professional providing support and encouragement throughout the process during a shorter time frame.

The type of detox necessary depends on the severity of the opiate use disorder. No matter where someone is on the spectrum, however, it’s likely that there will be symptoms during the withdrawal process.

Expected Withdrawal Symptoms

When you’re dependent on opiates, your body experiences mental and physical changes.

Mentally, your reward systems are changed. Reward systems drive us in life, which is why opiates can completely rearrange someone’s priorities and interests.

Physically, opiates alter the hormones in your body. Our bodies have their opioid systems that become slowed down or stopped in the presence of these drugs. This is because they work with the same receptors, so opiates essentially replace our natural hormones that regulate happiness, pain, sleep, and more.

As a result, the body reacts and takes time to readjust its hormones during detox since it depends on external opiates.

This is why withdrawal symptoms occur, and it typically happens in the following two stages.

Early Symptoms

Early symptoms of withdrawal occur within 6 to 12 hours of detox. You may experience:

  • Agitation
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Cravings
  • Excessive yawning and irregular sleep
  • Muscle aches
  • A runny nose

Other symptoms can include a racing heart or a fever. The severity of symptoms in each stage depends on the frequency of opiate use and the number of opiates taken.

Symptoms that start in the early stage can continue during the onset of later symptoms.

Later Symptoms

After the early stage, it’s common for other symptoms to appear, and these are typically the most intense around day 3.

Later symptoms can include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Dilated pupils
  • Goosebumps (e.g. chills)
  • Nausea
  • Stomach cramps
  • Vomiting

By seeking professional help, these symptoms can be monitored to ensure your safety. It may be possible to relieve your symptoms with detox medication if your doctor approves it.

Opiate Recovery Timeline

The timeline for recovery slightly varies based on which opiate was being used.

In general, the entire process lasts for around ten days for heroin and seven days for other opiates. Keep in mind that the most intense periods of detox occur in the middle of treatment and the times before and after the peak are less severe.

Still, it’s not an easy process to go through. Recovery doesn’t end after your physical symptoms go away, and recovery is a life-long process that requires attention and support.

It’s not uncommon for relapse to occur after going through detox, even if you went to a professional. That isn’t to say that going through detox is pointless. Instead, it highlights that it’s a complex process, and relapsing doesn’t mean you’ve failed or can never recover.

The Importance of Seeking Help

It may be daunting to consider detox and rehabilitation after reading the withdrawal symptoms.

However, it’s a crucial process that everyone going through opiate use disorders needs to go through. Hospitals get more than 1,000 emergency visits and 91 overdose deaths per day because of opiates.

It’s easy to find yourself in that place as opiates are highly addictive. You can quickly develop a tolerance to the drug and, as a result, may begin taking more of them to satisfy the dependence.

This can easily lead to overdose and death.

Aside from physical risk, opiate detox is essential for you to regain control of your life. It can free you of the burden you’ve been mentally carrying throughout the substance use disorder.

By seeking help from a professional, you can get treatment throughout detox and gain resources for your lifelong recovery. You will have access to peer support, therapy, and education that can allow you to succeed and thrive.

Choose a New Path

With detox in mind, you can go through the opiate recovery timeline and regain control of your life.

In doing so, you will improve your health, relationships, and overall quality of life.

Having opiate dependence is nothing to be ashamed of, and you can’t control the biological effects it has had on your body.

You can, however, control what you do about it. Reach out if you or a loved one is struggling with opiates. We’ll help you find recovery step by step.

Reviewed for Medical & Clinical Accuracy by Long Island Treatment Center