Opiate withdrawal: recovery tips and timeline

woman struggling with opiate withdrawal
Withdrawal can be one of the toughest steps in overcoming your addiction to opiates. Just know that you’re not alone in your struggle. According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, around 9 percent of Americans will end up abusing opiates throughout their lifetime. Overcoming opiate addiction is a tough process, but it’s not impossible. Part of making it through the opiate withdrawal process has to do with understanding the terrain that lies ahead of you. Below we go into the opiate withdrawal timeline and offer tips to get through the withdrawal process.

The Opioid Withdrawal Symptoms Timeline

Opiates offer one of the toughest withdrawal processes to make it through. The physical effects of the withdrawal period are very short, compared to the mental symptoms that will be with you for a very long time. The withdrawal timeline you’re going to experience will vary based on the individual. However, most cases are similar enough that we can provide a basic outline of how long opioid withdrawal symptoms will last.

Days 1-3

Most relapses will occur within the first 24 to 48 hours. This is what keeps most people trapped in the vicious cycle of addiction. Symptoms like aggression, headaches, and irritation will sometimes start as often as 12 hours after the last dose. Once the initial withdrawal symptoms fully kick in, you’ll experience muscle pain and aches, sweating, stomach problems (including diarrhea), insomnia, loss of appetite, severe anxiety, and even panic attacks. It’s important to remember during this phase, that these symptoms won’t last forever. It’s a temporary pain that you’ll be able to get past.

Days 3-5

After the first 48 hours, you should notice a reduction in the pain you’ve been experiencing. You’ve made it through the most intense withdrawal symptoms, but you’ll probably still be experiencing stomach cramping, minor aches, shivers, and fatigue. Once you’ve hit the one week point, most of the initial withdrawals symptoms will either be gone or become reduced to a very mild level. During this time light exercise and eating nutritious foods can be very helpful in aiding your recovery. Dealing with the mental aspects of addiction is usually a lifelong struggle, for this reason, it's important to have access to a regular network of support.

How to Get Through Opiate Withdrawal

The pain of the withdrawal process leads to a lot of people giving up before it has run its course.
Remember, the experience is only temporary. After a week you’ll start to feel much better physically.
The tips below will help to mitigate some of the initial withdrawal effects.

1. Get Support

Having support is incredibly important throughout the withdrawal process. Whether it’s a friend, a family member, a doctor, or even a support group. It can be helpful to lean on the support of other people to get you through this tough time. Being able to talk to someone openly about how you’re feeling can help to mitigate the anxiety and internal struggles that might lead to relapse.

2. Incorporate Basic Exercise

Moving your body can actually help to relieve some of your initial withdrawal symptoms. Even though you might not feel like moving at all, getting exercise releases serotonin, which might help to ease some of the negative feelings you're experiencing. Exercise, even if it's just a walk around the block, can also help to get your mind off things, so you're not just sitting around feeling sorry for yourself.

3. Get Plenty of Rest

Sleep might be difficult during the initial stages of the detox. But, you still need to get as much sleep as possible. Whether you’re in the initial, or later, stages of the detox do your best to get at least 8 hours of sleep per night. If you're still trying to work throughout the duration of your opiate withdrawal, then you might want to use a couple sick days. Or, at the very least, take a minimized workload for the week. Your body and overall well-being will thank you.

4. Stock Up on Healthy Foods and Liquids

Your appetite might vanish during the first few days of the detox. But, when it returns you should do your best to consume healthy foods and liquids. If you absolutely can't stomach any solid food, then make sure you're drinking plenty of water. Dehydration can be very harmful and only worsen the initial detox symptoms. It's recommended to consume as little processed food as possible and, instead, focus on eating plenty of vegetables, beans and legumes, and lean protein. The foods listed below are especially helpful with liver support:
  • Artichoke
  • Broccoli
  • Leafy Greens
  • Wild fish
  • Nuts, Seeds, and Olive Oil
Some useful vitamins and minerals include:

5. Attend Detox

If you're severely addicted to opiates, then you might want to consider attending a professional detox center. They'll be equipped to help ease the initial detox symptoms as much as possible. In some cases, drugs might be prescribed to help you make it through the first few days of the detox. For those who have a very intense addiction to opiates, a slow tapering off of the drug might be recommended.
Overcoming your opiate addiction shouldn’t be something you have to do alone. If you or a loved one is currently suffering from opiate addiction, then reach out to the team of professionals at The Recovery Village today.
Opiate Withdrawal: Recovery Tips and Timeline
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