If you’re struggling with opiate addiction, the fear of withdrawal alone can be enough to make you hesitate to get clean. How long does opiate withdrawal really last? Is there an effective treatment for opiate withdrawal?
The physical effects of withdrawal from opiates may last only a few weeks, but the mental effects can drag on for months. Luckily, there are treatments available that can help you escape the worst of your withdrawal symptoms.
Physical Symptoms of Opiate Withdrawal
The physical symptoms of withdrawal from opiates typically begin about 12 to 30 hours after you last use opiate drugs, depending on which type of drug you were using. The early physical symptoms of withdrawal are extremely painful, and include anxiety, muscle aches, runny nose, watery eyes, agitation, sweating, abdominal cramps, insomnia, dilated pupils, nausea, goose bumps, vomiting and diarrhea. If you were to quit cold turkey, you’d experience your worst opiate withdrawal symptoms during the first five days after quitting.
By week two, many people quitting opiates experience a significant reduction of their withdrawal symptoms. If your addiction was quite severe, you may continue to experience withdrawal symptoms going into the second week. Most likely, however, your opiate withdrawal symptoms in the second week will be limited to confusion, inability to concentrate, impaired judgment and anxiety.
By the third week of withdrawal from opiates, your physical symptoms should have subsided – but during this period, many people report feeling intense cravings for opiates. Your brain has not yet healed from the damage done by opiate addiction – it can take months for full healing to occur. In the fourth week of opiate withdrawal, your physical symptoms should have subsided, but mental symptoms like depression and a feeling of fogginess can persist for months after you quit taking opiates.
You Don’t Have to Suffer Opiate Withdrawal
Fortunately, modern treatments for opiate addiction have advanced to the point where you can quit taking opiates without going through a full-blown, painful withdrawal. You have a couple of options.
The first option is rapid detox. This is a good option for people who have a short history of opiate addiction and are high-functioning. When you choose rapid detox, you’ll be put under general anesthesia and given naloxone, a drug that flushes all the opiates out of your system at once and puts you into full opiate withdrawal.
Don’t worry – you’ll be asleep for it! By the time you wake up, the worst of your opiate withdrawal symptoms will have passed. You may still feel foggy and may have some mild physical effects – you’ll want to schedule your procedure so you can take a few days off work afterward.
The second option is Suboxone treatment to manage your opiate withdrawal symptoms. Suboxone is an opiate maintenance drug, an alternative to methadone. It’s ideal for treating opiate withdrawals because it’s a partial opiate agonist – it stimulates your brain’s opioid receptors enough to relieve your opiate withdrawal symptoms, but not so much that you get high. If you try to abuse Suboxone, it won’t work – and if you try to take other opiate drugs while on Suboxone, you won’t get high.
Suboxone’s low potential for abuse means that you can take a supply of the drug home with you – you won’t have to make time to go to a clinic every day to get your medication or risk going into full opiate withdrawal. It’s prescribed by a doctor in the privacy of a primary care office. You can take this opiate withdrawal medication in the privacy of your own home, at a time that suits you, and no one needs to know that you’re taking it if you don’t want them to. With Suboxone, you can begin to feel “normal” again right away – as soon as the first day of treatment.
As your Suboxone treatment progresses, you’ll gradually lower your dose a little each day, until you can finally stop taking Suboxone altogether and have minimal, manageable opiate withdrawal symptoms.