May 4, 2023

How Long Does Opiate Withdrawal Last?

a woman sits with her head in her hands to represent opiate withdrawal.

Ongoing use of opiates like heroin leads to the development of tolerance and physical dependence on the drug. If you become dependent on opiates, you will experience aggravating withdrawal symptoms when you discontinue use of the narcotic.

Opiates are chemical compounds that are extracted from the sap and fibers of opium poppies. Opiates include heroin, opium, codeine, and morphine. Opioids, by contrast, are chemical compounds that are fully or partially synthesized in labs – oxycodone, hydrocodone, or fentanyl, for instance.

Opiate withdrawal symptoms usually present within 6 to 24 hours of the last use, peaking after 1 to 3 days. Most opiate withdrawal symptoms subside after 4 to 7 days, although fatigue and feelings of anxiety or depression, may persist. Psychological symptoms like insomnia, mood swings, and irritability may linger for up to 2 weeks

How Long Can Opiate Withdrawal Last? 

Opiate withdrawal typically occurs within hours of the last dose of a drug like heroin. Symptoms may present as soon as 6 hours after the last dose or the onset of withdrawal may occur after 24 hours of abstinence from opioids. The onset of acute, short-term withdrawal symptoms will vary from person to person, according to SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration).

In most cases, the symptoms of acute opiate withdrawal will last from 3 to 10 days. The following factors influence the onset and duration of opiate withdrawal:

  • Frequency of opiate use
  • Amount of opiates used
  • Duration of opiate use
  • Physical health
  • Mental health
  • Use of other addictive substances or medications
A man sits in front of an open window to represent the question: how long doe opiate withdrawal last?

What is Opiate Withdrawal?

The sustained use of heroin or any other opiate can trigger changes in behavior and alterations in the brain. When you take opiates, the drug attaches to the mu-opioid receptors in the brain and CNS (central nervous system). Opiates mimic the effects of naturally occurring opioids (endogenous opioids), activating certain cells and disrupting signaling to the brain. This can impact core functions like breathing, heart rate, and sleeping.

Over time, the brain adapts to the continuous presence of opiates. As tolerance develops, you will require more opiates or more frequent doses to deliver the initial effects. If you increase your consumption of opiates, this will accelerate the development of physical dependence. Dependence is characterized by the presentation of withdrawal symptoms in the absence of the substance.

While most symptoms of opiate withdrawal are not life-threatening, the experience can be intensely unpleasant and painful, leading many people to continue abusing opiates rather than undergoing opiate detox. That said, heroin withdrawal is associated with vomiting and diarrhea during detox which can trigger dehydration and an imbalance of electrolytes, which can be life-threatening if unmanaged.

Signs

Several factors can influence the nature and severity of the symptoms experienced during opiate withdrawal. These factors may include the duration of addiction, the type and amount of opiate taken, the method of drug use, the presence of multiple drug use, family history, and overall physical and mental health.

When opiate use is discontinued, the first sign of withdrawal is often a comedown, as the initial effects of the drug start to wear off and the brain chemistry returns to normal. If opiate use is not continued, withdrawal symptoms may eventually develop, which can involve both physical and mental symptoms associated with drug and alcohol withdrawal. It’s vital to seek professional help and guidance to manage withdrawal symptoms safely and effectively.

Symptoms

The short-term symptoms associated with opiate withdrawal can so distressing and uncomfortable that many people detoxing from opiates in a nonclinical setting will relapse as a result. This can be especially dangerous due to decreased tolerance heightening the risk of opiate overdose.

The most common short-term opiate withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • High blood pressure
  • Rapid pulse
  • Increased breathing rate
  • Raised body temperature
  • Insomnia
  • Sweating
  • Dilated pupils
  • Muscle spasms
  • Cramps
  • Bone pain

Protracted opiate withdrawal symptoms may occur after the acute withdrawal period ends. Symptoms may include:

  • Disrupted sleep patterns
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Fatigue
  • Reduced interest in activities
  • Irritability
  • Memory loss
  • Decreased attention and focus
  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Cravings for opiates
a man sits at a kitchen table with his hand on his head to represent opiate withdrawal symptoms.

Opioids vs. Opiates

Opioids are synthetic or semi-synthetic substances that mimic the effects of natural opiates like morphine, codeine, and heroin. Opioids include:

  • Oxycodone
  • Hydrocodone
  • Fentanyl
  • Tramadol

Although opioids are commonly prescribed for pain relief, this class of drugs has a high potential for misuse and abuse, often leading to addiction or overdose.

The term “opiates” specifically refers to drugs that are derived from the opium poppy plant. Examples of opiates include:

  • Heroin
  • Morphine
  • Codeine

Opiates have been used for pain relief for centuries, but this class of drugs is also associated with abuse and addiction.

So, all opiates are opioids, but not all opioids are opiates. Opioids can be synthetic or semi-synthetic, while opiates are naturally occurring substances derived from the opium poppy plant.

How Long Does Opioid Withdrawal Last?

The duration of withdrawal from opioids versus opiates can vary depending on various factors, including the level of dependence, the type and amount of drug used, and the duration of use. That said, the duration of opioid withdrawal is often longer than withdrawal from heroin or other opiates.

Heroin has a fairly short elimination half-life, which means that the drug is metabolized rapidly, leading to withdrawal symptoms that usually peak within a few days and subside within 7 to 10 days.

Withdrawal from long-acting opioids – morphine, buprenorphine, or oxycodone, for instance – can last significantly longer. Symptoms may linger for weeks or even months as these drugs stay in the body for longer.

Short-acting opioids like fentanyl trigger withdrawal symptoms within 8 to 24 hours that last for up to 10 days.

Long-acting opioids like methadone trigger withdrawal symptoms within 36 hours that last for 14 days or more.

Get Treatment for Opiate and Opioid Addiction at Gratitude Lodge

If you have developed an addiction to opiates like heroin or opioids like oxycodone, we can help you kickstart your recovery at Gratitude Lodge in Southern California.

Begin your opioid addiction treatment with our supervised medical detox program. Benefit from FDA-approved medications and continuous clinical care to streamline the withdrawal process. After a week or so of opiate withdrawal, you can move into one of these treatment programs for opioid use disorder:

  • 30-day inpatient program
  • Intensive outpatient program
  • Dual diagnosis treatment program (for co-occurring disorders)

All treatment programs at Gratitude Lodge draw from a combination of science-based and holistic therapies, such as:

  • Medication-assisted treatment
  • Psychotherapy
  • Group therapy
  • Individual counseling
  • Family therapy
  • Holistic therapies
  • Aftercare

Are you ready to move beyond opiate addiction? If so, call our admissions team today at 888-861-1658.

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Joe Gilmore

Joseph Gilmore

Joseph Gilmore has been working in the addiction industry for half a decade and has been writing about addiction and substance abuse treatment during that time. He has experience working for facilities all across the country. Connect with Joe on LinkedIn.
Jenni Bussi

Jenni Busse MS, LPCC

Jenni Busse MS, LPSS is the Clinical Director at Gratitude Lodge. Jenni oversees the clinical program and the clinical team at Gratitude Lodge as a whole. Jenni has worked in treatment for almost 14 years. Her background as a licensed therapist and her passion for helping others intersected with addiction recovery when she started working primarily in detox residential treatment.

Drug detox can vary according to the patient’s addiction factors, including the substance abused, how long the addiction has lasted, the patient’s medical condition, if any other disorders are present, and more. Our skilled and credentialed team at Gratitude Lodge work closely with every patient going through drug detox, facilitating the beginnings of a successful recovery at our rehab addiction centers in Orange County, CA.

Drug detox can vary according to the patient’s addiction factors, including the substance abused, how long the addiction has lasted, the patient’s medical condition, if any other disorders are present, and more. Our skilled and credentialed team at Gratitude Lodge work closely with every patient going through drug detox.

Many patients don’t realize the toxicity of prolonged alcohol abuse and how it affects the body. Alcohol detox at the luxurious rehab addiction centers at Gratitude Lodge leeches your body of these toxins in preparation for successful treatment for drugs and alcohol abuse. Alcohol detox may not take as long or produce severe withdrawal symptoms, but it is still an essential beginning to your recovery.

Many patients don’t realize the toxicity of prolonged alcohol abuse and how it affects the body. Alcohol detox at the luxurious rehab addiction centers at Gratitude Lodge leeches your body of these toxins in preparation for successful treatment for drugs and alcohol abuse.

Holistic Therapy

Our holistic therapy treatments offer a full-scope approach to recovery, addressing your mind, body, and emotions as part of a comprehensive treatment plan. This therapy is designed to help address underlying issues and integrate alternative therapies to promote overall health and well-being.
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Psychotherapy

An essential part of your treatment experience, we offer individual (CBT and DBT talk therapy) and group addiction treatment counseling to help you explore and address the emotional component of addiction, providing you with the tools, self-awareness, and empowerment you need to maintain recovery.

Dual Diagnosis

Dual Diagnosis is a highly effective addiction treatment that addresses substance use and mental health disorders simultaneously. Often co-occurring, these disorders are best managed when treated together with specific and targeted therapy.
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Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)

Medication-Assisted Treatment provides you with FDA-approved medications to help ease the symptoms of withdrawal while you’re in treatment. This makes the detox process easier and safer, as well as increasing the chances of a successful recovery.

Sober Living

Sober living provides a supportive and substance-free living environment for your ongoing recovery. We partner with a number of upscale and carefully vetted sober living homes that are available to our clients after inpatient alcohol and drug addiction treatment.
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Outpatient Treatment

Once detox and inpatient are complete, we provide an easy transition to outpatient care through our hand-selected partners. This program offers a more flexible approach, allowing you to ease back in to daily life while still receiving frequent & effective care.
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Inpatient
Treatment

Inpatient treatment provides an intensive and comprehensive addiction treatment program in a structured environment. You will receive 24/7 expert care, therapy, and support as you build your foundation for long-term recovery.

Drug & Alcohol Detox

A crucial first step in the recovery process, our detox program provides a comfortable, medically supervised environment that addresses the physical aspect of addiction and eliminates substances from your body.

Use Our 24 Hour text line. You can ask questions about our program, the admissions process, and more.