Man sitting on sofa with hands to face, dealing with an opiate withdrawal.

Opiate drugs such as prescription painkillers can produce opiate withdrawal symptoms within only a few hours of the last dose. Symptoms often last for a week or longer. Withdrawal from opiates is not often life-threatening, but it very often leads to relapse. Professional treatment during withdrawal and afterward reduces relapse risk and helps patients lead an addiction-free life.

Symptoms of Opiate Withdrawal

Opiates produce a high by interrupting the brain’s reward and pleasure signals. The central nervous system contains opioid receptors that respond to opiate drugs. Under the influence of opiates, the brain, heart and respiratory systems slow down. Using the drugs for a prolonged period changes brain chemistry and very often results in physical dependence and addiction. A person addicted to opiates may not feel normal without the drug’s influence. In this case, opiate withdrawal may start in between doses, or within a few hours.

Withdrawal from opiates can be fairly mild or it can be quite severe. Factors for severity include the person’s level of dependence, any co-occurring mental health issues and the particular drug in question.

Early symptoms begin between six and 12 hours for short-acting drugs and within 30 hours for long-acting drugs. Early symptoms include muscles aches, agitation, insomnia, anxiety, sweats, rapid heart rate, fever, and hypertension. Later symptoms usually peak within 72 hours and can then last for a week or more. These include nausea, goosebumps, depression, stomach cramps, strong opiate cravings. Opiate cravings, in particular, are very strong and usually cause relapse without intervention.

What Are Some Complications of Opiate Withdrawal?

As previously mentioned, opiate withdrawal is not usually life threatening. Without help, the patient usually ends up relapsing if drugs are accessible. However, there are some potential complications from withdrawal.

Nausea and vomiting are common symptoms during opioid withdrawal and can cause sufferers to inhale vomited material, a condition called aspiration.

This represents a significant risk for pneumonia. Another common symptom is diarrhea. This causes a loss of fluids, which can then cause abnormal heart rhythm. Without help, this can cause a heart attack at worst or circulatory problems. In general, dehydration represents a significant threat throughout withdrawal. Patients will experience sweating, vomiting, and diarrhea, which can all contribute to dehydration.

Another complication comes from feelings of anxiety and depression during withdrawal. This presents a particular concern for patients who have co-occurring disorders. For patients who have taken opiates to medicate anxiety and depression, the risk increases for much stronger bouts with these issues during withdrawal. Suicide or self-harm can happen during unassisted withdrawal from opiates.

Relapse Biggest Risk of Opiate Withdrawal

Ultimately, the biggest risk of unassisted withdrawal from opiates is relapsing. Relapse not only negates any treatment, but it may lead to a fatal overdose. Withdrawal reduces drug tolerance, which means patients can end up overdosing on a much smaller dose than they were previously used to taking.

One of the first steps to mitigate opiate withdrawal is drug detox. Medical detox in a professional setting can alleviate the most dangerous symptoms and remove the risk of relapse during withdrawal. However, detox only represents the first step on the path to recovery from opiate addiction.

Opiate addiction treatment and recovery must take place at a viable treatment center like Beaches Recovery in Jacksonville, Florida. Beaches helps patients understand the reasons behind addiction and teaches healthy habits for a life of sobriety. We offer a wide range of both traditional treatments and holistic care for a balanced program.

Examples of what you will find at Beaches Recovery:

  • Dual diagnosis
  • Partnership with top insurance companies
  • Adjunct therapies like horseback riding, bowling and hiking
  • JCAHO accreditation
  • Extended care and transitional care

Detox only frees your body of the harmful influence of opiates, but the risk of relapse remains high without addiction therapy and counseling. Everyone’s experience with addiction is different and that’s why Beaches Recovery provides truly individualized treatment plans for every situation.

Don’t let opiate addiction take over your life. Reach out to Beaches Recovery for treatment options that will help you regain control of your life. Give us a call today at 866.605.0532 to find out more about our programs.