Opioid Withdrawal: Timeline and Risks

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The opioid withdrawal process can be extremely uncomfortable, and even dangerous. It is crucial to have the right support and care to prevent potentially life-threatening complications. Knowing what potential risks may be, as well as the timeline for detox, can help individuals decide to get help and support. The right help and support can be beneficial for ensuring successful long-term recovery.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    

What Makes Opioid Addictive?

Opioids are kind of prescription medications given by medical professionals that aid in the management of mild to severe pain. They are highly addictive by nature, and while they have medical uses, they should be used carefully and under medical supervision. These medications can help those who struggle with chronic pain, or pain caused by trauma like a car accident or a fall. However, the way that opioids interact with the brain can result in a rush of euphoria, which contributes to the abuse of these drugs. These medications bind to the opioid receptors within the brain and alter the individual’s perception of pain. With continued use, the individual may begin to develop a tolerance to the medication, resulting in needing a higher dose to feel the effects. This leads to continued opioid abuse, resulting in addiction and opioid withdrawal. 

Symptoms of Opioid Withdrawal

Understanding the symptoms of opioid withdrawal, and the potential risks involved, is important. These symptoms could potentially lead to life-threatening complications if left unmonitored. Withdrawal symptoms can be extremely uncomfortable and make it difficult to stay the course if an individual tries to use the “cold turkey” method. This refers to a sudden cessation of using opioid drugs, without proper medical monitoring and medications. The symptoms associated with withdrawal are uncomfortable, and without proper support, individuals often return to using the substances to feel relief. Symptoms of withdrawal may include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Restlessness
  • Insomnia
  • Muscle aches and cramps
  • High blood pressure
  • Elevated heart rate
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Agitation
  • Sweating
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Irritability and mood swings
  • Intense cravings

Risks of Opioid Withdrawal

There are different risks associated with coming off substances like opioids. These risks can lead to health complications. Having the right care and support helps ensure the withdrawal process’s safety and success. Risks associated with opioid withdrawal can include dehydration due to diarrhea and vomiting, which can contribute to kidney stones, UTIs, and kidney infections. Cardiovascular issues may also arise from rapid heart rate and high blood pressure causing strain on the heart. Severe anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts often occur during withdrawal, and if not properly addressed can lead to self-harm or suicide attempts. Lastly, due to severe cravings that occur as the body undergoes withdrawal, relapse often occurs. With support, the thoughts and cravings surrounding opioid use can be managed, and recovery can be attainable. 

Opioid Withdrawal Timeline

Withdrawal is not a linear process. Different people experience different symptoms, at varying intensities, throughout the process. Some may experience minimum discomfort, while others go through excruciating pain and discomfort, often resulting in relapse. There is no cookie-cutter explanation of how withdrawal and detox occur, however, there is a general timeline for what can be expected during this process. Opioid withdrawal can begin as little as hours after the last use of the substance. Initial symptoms may include anxiety, muscle aches, sweating, and excessively teary eyes or yawning. Within the first 3 days, the symptoms generally peak, leading to severe nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and chills. On days 4 through 7, these symptoms begin to level off, however some symptoms may linger. The first couple of weeks can consist of physical symptoms subsiding, and mental health ones being persistent. This is why it is crucial to have support through the whole process and learn healthy coping mechanisms to address anxiety and depression. Post-acute withdrawal syndrome, or PAWS, can last beyond the first 2 weeks of the withdrawal process. Some symptoms that may be present in PAWS include irritability, mood swings, depression, anxiety, and severe cravings. 

Benefits of Professional Opioid Detox

A professional detox center is highly recommended for anyone who is struggling with opioids. These drugs are dangerous, often leading to overdose and permanent health issues. The individual can begin living a happy and healthy lifestyle with professional care. Opioid withdrawal is an uncomfortable process. In a professional setting, with certified addiction professionals and medical staff, physical and mental health symptoms can be addressed. Nursing staff and doctors can provide medications to help alleviate symptoms, and mental health professionals can help with teaching healthier coping skills for symptoms like depression and anxiety. The benefits are endless, and professional opioid detox can make a world of difference in someone’s recovery journey. 

Get the Support You Deserve

Struggling with opioid addiction can lead to an array of dangerous risks that could have devastating results. The health complications that can occur can lead to irreversible damage to internal organs and within the brain. Healing is crucial to overcoming opioid addiction. If you or a loved one are struggling with opioids, we can help. At The Healing Center, we provide a safe and healing environment where people can begin their healing journey of recovery. Call us today and start your recovery process.