Opiate Withdrawal: Recovery Tips and Timeline

woman struggling with opiate withdrawal

Withdrawal can be one of the toughest steps in beginning recovery from opiate addiction. 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 involves understanding it.

Opiates have one of the toughest withdrawal processes. The physical effects of the withdrawal period are fairly short, compared to the mental symptoms that may persist. The withdrawal timeline and experience is different for everyone. However, most cases are similar enough that a basic outline of how long opioid withdrawal symptoms will last can be established.
Most relapses occur within the first 24 to 48 hours of cessation. This is what keeps most people trapped in the vicious cycle of addiction. Symptoms like aggression, headaches, and irritation will sometimes start as soon as 12 hours after the last dose. Early withdrawal symptoms may include 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.
After the first 48 hours, there is usually a reduction in the pain you’ve been experiencing. You’ve made it through the most intense withdrawal symptoms, but you’ll probably still experience stomach cramping, minor aches, shivers, and fatigue. Once you’ve hit the one week point, most of the initial withdrawal symptoms will either be gone or become reduced to a mild level. During this time, light exercise and nutritious foods can be very helpful in aiding your recovery. Dealing with the mental aspect of addiction is usually a lifelong struggle. Therefore, it is important to have access to a regular network of support.
A lot of people give up before the pain of the withdrawal process 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 mitigate some of the initial withdrawal effects.

Having support is incredibly important throughout the withdrawal process. Whether it’s a friend, a family member, a doctor or even a support group, leaning on the support of other people can help get you through this tough time. Having someone to talk to about how you’re feeling can help mitigate the anxiety and internal struggles that might lead to relapse. A medical detox program can provide you the medical and emotional support you need in a safe environment.
Moving your body can actually help relieve some of your initial withdrawal symptoms. Even though you might not feel like moving at all, getting exercise releases serotonin, which might help 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. A medical detox program can help you find a balance between rest and exercise, as the strenuous activity during withdrawal can be dangerous.
Sleep might be difficult during the initial stages of the detox. However, you still need to get as much sleep as possible. Whether you’re in the initial or later stages of the detox, you should try 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 of sick days, or, at the very least, take a minimized workload for the week. Your body and overall well-being will thank you.
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, legumes, and lean protein. The foods listed below are especially helpful for liver support:

  • Artichoke
  • Broccoli
  • Leafy greens
  • Wild fish
  • Nuts, seeds and olive oil

Some useful vitamins and minerals include:

If you’re severely addicted to opiates, you might want to consider attending a professional detox center. These detox centers are equipped to help ease the initial detox symptoms as much as possible. In some cases, medications might be prescribed to help you make it through the first few days of the detox. For those who have an intense addiction to opiates, a slow tapering off of the drug is the safest course of action.

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, reach out to the team of professionals at The Recovery Village today to learn more about treatment options.

Opiate Withdrawal: Recovery Tips and Timeline
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