Opiate Detox & Withdrawal Timeline

Medically reviewed by:

Detox and Withdrawal Services

Opiates attach to receptors on nerve cells in the body to block pain messages. They also induce a dopamine release, resulting in feelings of euphoria. Long term use creates a physical dependence so your neurons can’t function without opiates in your system. Prescription opiates like oxycodone, morphine and codeine provide short term pain relief after surgery but if they are over-used or used without a prescription, they cause a high level of dependency. Opiate withdrawal is very unpleasant and requires professional assistance.

Our medical detox centers and 12-step facilities run specialized detox and opiate rehabilitation programs using evidence-based therapies and holistic interventions that support you on your journey to long term recovery.

Opiate Withdrawal Symptoms

In general opiate withdrawal symptoms are described as producing a flu-like state and are physiologically taxing. Opiate withdrawal symptoms are very intense, and medical staff use COWS or the Clinical Opioid Withdrawal Scale to assess the severity of each case prior to your admission into detox. Each of the 11 symptoms on the scale is rated to give you a score out of 47. Your withdrawal score will then be graded as mild, moderate or severe, and the appropriate treatment strategies will be adopted to treat it.

Mild symptoms are treated with symptomatic medication, while moderate and severe symptoms are usually treated with a combination of symptomatic and substitute medications.

If you have mild symptoms, you need to drink 2 to 3 liters of water a day, to replace the fluids you have lost through perspiration and diarrhea. Vitamin B and C is also supplemented. Moderate cases are also treated with lots of fluids and vitamin supplementation. Substitute medications are used to ease your symptoms.

Acute opiate withdrawal is a protracted phase of withdrawal that may last up to six months, during which time you may feel unwell and experience cravings for opiates. This is a vulnerable stage as you are highly susceptible to relapse and at risk of overdose from reduced tolerance.

Timeline of Withdrawal Symptoms

Opiate withdrawal symptoms usually begin within 12 hours of your last dose and last for approximately two weeks. Symptoms start to improve after the first few days, peaking after 72 hours on average.

Short-acting opiates like heroin cause withdrawal symptoms to begin eight to 24 hours after your last use and may last for between four to 10 days. Long-acting opiates like extended-release oxycodone or morphine may cause symptoms to begin 36 hours after your last use and can continue for two weeks or longer.

Symptoms that you are likely to experience on the first day of your withdrawal from opiates include:

  • Restlessness
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Continuous yawning
  • Sweating
  • Body aches
  • Shaking
  • Fever

Late-stage symptoms that are likely to develop after the first day of withdrawal include

  • Goosebumps
  • Watery eyes and runny nose
  • Vomiting and stomach cramps
  • Rapid breathing and an increased heart rate
  • High blood pressure
  • Seizures and hallucinations

How to Detox Safely

Fentanyl is a high potency prescription opiate that is similar to heroin but is 50 to 100 times more potent. It is used by people who have a high tolerance to other opiates, and it takes five to 10 days to detox it from your system. Fentanyl requires a highly specialized detox program to be eliminated safely from your body. Because of their high potency and intense withdrawal symptoms, opiates like fentanyl, morphine, codeine, oxycodone and hydrocodone should be detoxed in a medical facility.

If you are going through opiate detox, you will be assessed for occurring illnesses and dual diagnosis, as these disorders must be treated to reduce your risk of relapse.

Home Detox

Owing to their potency and high addiction rates, opiates should not be detoxed at home. Withdrawal produces intense physical, emotional and behavioral symptoms that need to be managed as they can become progressively worse. Treatment in a medical facility, such as a detox center or hospital environment is almost always required.

Because opiate withdrawal causes nausea and vomiting during detox, you are at risk of aspiration, or inhalation of your stomach contents. This can lead to pneumonia and can be life-threatening. Diarrhea is another serious side effect that needs to be managed actively as it causes loss of fluids and electrolytes. This can result in an abnormal heartbeat that can lead to circulation problems and heart attack.

Opiate detox causes a wide range of withdrawal symptoms that need to be treated during the process, many of which may require different medications. This is a complex process that requires clinical intervention to be done safely.

Can I Quit Opiates ‘Cold Turkey’

We do not recommend that you attempt to detox from opiates abruptly or ‘cold turkey’ especially if you have been using them for a long time, as you will have developed a high level of dependence. Quitting ‘cold turkey’ induces the most severe withdrawal symptoms, and the most effective long-term results are achieved through a weaning or tapering off process whereby you gradually decrease the number of opiates in your system.

In many cases, dependence on short-acting opiates is treated by substituting them with long-acting opiates. Substitute medications may need to be used for a long time in order to provide long term recovery support.

In a Residential Setting

Opiate dependency is a complex condition that requires active management and a residential detox is the safest way to be monitored so you can detox safely. Upon admission you will be assessed so we can understand the severity of your symptoms. We will also consider whether you have any co-occurring dependencies and dual diagnosis so that the correct rehabilitation program can be developed to assist you with long term recovery.

It’s essential that your vital signs and mental and physical wellbeing is monitored through your detox, and that the correct medication is administered on time to ease your withdrawal symptoms. Experienced medical staff provide clinical and psycho-emotional support around the clock.

Why Choose Us for Opiate Detox?

We provide a specialized detox program at our medical center for opiate withdrawal because we understand that it is a long road to recovery. Our luxurious 12-step facility has been designed to keep you safe and comfortable throughout your stay with us. Our experienced medical staff will provide emotional support throughout your opiate detox, as well as administer the medications you need to eliminate opiates from your system gradually.

Our residential, outpatient and extended care programs are run from the same property, making it easy for you to move onto the next stage in your recovery journey once you have completed your medical detox. Support groups are in place to give you the long-term encouragement required to break free from your dependency.

About United Recovery Project

Why Choose United Recovery CA for Drug Detox and Withdrawal?

Our medical detox and rehabilitation center has been designed for comfort and safety. We enable our patients to retreat into a luxurious and non-judgmental space where you receive 24-hour medical supervision and clinical interventions to help you forge your long term recovery path. Once your drug detox is complete you can enroll for in-patient or out-patient rehab in a familiar setting as you learn the tools and coping skills required to address the underlying triggers that resulted in your drug dependency. Aftercare, support groups and sober living homes provide you with extended care programs that facilitate long term sobriety in an understanding community.

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Is an Opiate Detox Enough to Tackle Addiction?

Completing a medical detox is the beginning of your recovery journey, during which time you will break through your physical dependence on opiates. For many clients, withdrawal symptom intensity dissipates after two weeks but some clients may experience symptoms for up to six months after detox. This makes you vulnerable to relapse if you don’t have healthy coping mechanisms in place to address the underlying causes of your dependency.

You will develop those coping strategies through a combination of individual, group and holistic therapies that are designed to help you confront the triggers that caused your addiction, in the safety of our rehab center. Because the road to recovery is long, it’s essential that you have extended support once you return to your home environment, job or school. Sober living homes, alumni groups and support groups are part of this long-term strategy that will equip you with healthy coping skills to complement your new life in recovery.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Is Opiate detox dangerous?

Opiates can cause high levels of physical and neurological dependency and very intense withdrawal symptoms that need active and professional management. Complications and side effects from withdrawal are common and potentially dangerous. This means your risk of relapse is also high, and an overdose due to reduced tolerance is a real possibility during or after detox.

Are medications part of the detox?

Medications are frequently used during detox from opiates to ease physical and psychological symptoms. Symptomatic medications will be used for mild withdrawal while moderate and severe cases also require substitute medications to facilitate the process. Most clients also need nutritional supplementation due to vomiting, diarrhea and perspiration.

Does my insurance cover Opiate detox?

Most health insurance providers will cover opiate detox, either partially or in full. The amount of cover that you will receive depends on your policy and provider. We suggest that you inquire about your level of cover before you apply for a medical detox to establish if you will be liable for any co-payments.

How long does Opiate detox take?

The length of time it takes to detox opiates from your system is variable, and depends on the substance as well as your state of mental and physical health. In many cases, physical detox can be completed in three to five days, however many clients may experience protracted withdrawal symptoms that can last for a few months. Having the appropriate support system in place in terms of extended rehabilitation can make the difference between relapse and long-term sobriety.

Can I stop "cold turkey"?

Opiate cessation should never be done ‘cold turkey’ because it induces the most severe withdrawal symptoms that may cause you to relapse. Our facility will create a personalized treatment plan that tapers off your use of opiates to make the experience as comfortable as possible and give you the best prognosis for long term recovery.

Do You Need Help?

You can get better with the right support. Don’t hesitate to contact us now so that we can discuss the next steps.