Opioid Withdrawal: Symptoms, Timeline, & Treatment

Table of Contents

Individuals grappling with opioid dependence may face challenging and distressing symptoms of opioid withdrawal upon discontinuing use. If you or someone close to you is dealing with opioid misuse or addiction, it might be beneficial to understand more about opioid withdrawal management, and to explore strategies for managing and alleviating the symptoms associated with withdrawal from this highly addictive class of drugs.

Opioid Withdrawal Symptoms

Opioid withdrawal symptoms and timeline can vary based on the extent of usage and other variables. This means that the symptoms of opioid withdrawal are unique to each person, although there is a common timeline for how symptoms typically unfold.

Initial symptoms of opioid withdrawal usually start within 24 hours of discontinuation. Early symptoms of opiate withdrawal include:

  • Muscle soreness
  • Restlessness
  • Anxiety
  • Tearing of the eyes
  • Nasal congestion
  • Increased sweating
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Frequent yawning

More severe signs of opioid withdrawal emerge a day or so later and may include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach cramps
  • Skin goosebumps
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Pupil dilation and potential vision blur
  • Accelerated heart rate
  • Elevated blood pressure

Although these opioid addiction withdrawal symptoms can be highly uncomfortable and distressing, they generally begin to lessen after 72 hours, with acute withdrawal symptoms usually subsiding within a week.

The onset and duration of withdrawal can also be affected by the specific drug involved and how long it stays in your system.

The duration of symptoms is influenced by usage frequency, addiction severity, and personal health factors.

For instance, withdrawal from heroin may start within 12 hours of the last dose, while methadone withdrawal could take 36 hours to begin.

A woman sits with her hands on her head representing Opioid withdrawal symptoms

Opioid Withdrawal Timeline

How long does opioid withdrawal last can vary significantly depending on the type of opioid used. Factors influencing this variability include the specific opioid, the intensity of symptoms, the timing and duration of symptoms, the length of opioid usage, the dosage, and the interval between doses.

  • Heroin and short-acting opioids: Opioid withdrawal side effects for heroin and short-acting opioids typically begin within 8 to 12 hours after the last use. These symptoms reach their peak intensity after 1 to 3 days and may last 7 days. Short-acting opioids include drugs like morphine, hydrocodone, oxycodone, and immediate-release formulations of fentanyl. Symptoms for these opioids can start within 8 to 24 hours after the last use and persist for 10 days.
  • Long-acting opioids: For long-acting opioids like methadone and extended-release or controlled-release versions of oxycodone, morphine,, hydrocodone, or fentanyl, the onset of withdrawal symptoms can be delayed for 36 hours after the last dose. These symptoms may last for 14 days or more, indicating a prolonged withdrawal phase.

Opioid Withdrawal Treatment

Managing opioid withdrawal effectively requires a comprehensive approach that can include medical supervision, MAT (medication-assisted treatment), supportive care, and long-term strategies for recovery. The goal of treatment is to alleviate withdrawal symptoms, prevent relapse, and support the person’s journey toward long-term recovery.

  • Medical detox: Supervised detoxification in a healthcare setting ensures safety and comfort. Medical professionals can monitor symptoms, prevent complications, and adjust treatment plans as needed.
  • MAT: MAT combines medications with counseling and behavioral therapies. Medications such as methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone are used to reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms. These medications can help normalize body functions without the euphoric effects of opioids. Buprenorphine and methadone can be employed to mitigate opioid withdrawal symptoms and manage cravings. Buprenorphine is effective for gradually reducing opioid dependence. Both methadone and buprenorphine, along with Suboxone ­– a blend of buprenorphine and naloxone – might be utilized long term to regulate cravings, support continued abstinence from illicit or prescribed opioids, and lower overdose risks. Additionally, supplementary medications like Clonidine for anxiety and Loperamide for diarrhea may be prescribed to alleviate specific withdrawal symptoms.
  • Supportive care: Supportive care includes hydration, nutrition, and relief of withdrawal symptoms through non-opioid medications. This can include treatments for nausea, diarrhea, and sleep disturbances.
  • Long-term recovery strategies: Beyond the initial withdrawal phase, long-term strategies include ongoing counseling, support groups, and ongoing MAT. These strategies can help in addressing the underlying causes of addiction, preventing relapse, and supporting a healthy lifestyle.
  • Counseling and psychological support: Individual or group therapy can address psychological aspects of addiction, including triggers, coping mechanisms, and emotional support. CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) and other therapeutic approaches can be particularly effective.
  • Relapse prevention: Education on relapse prevention strategies is an integral part of treatment, teaching people how to recognize and manage triggers and cravings.

Successful opioid withdrawal treatment should be highly personalized. Engaging in a comprehensive treatment program offers the best chance for long-term recovery and a return to a fulfilling life without opioids.

ohio recovery centers facility from curb view, representing Opioid withdrawal symptoms

Get Treatment for Opioid Addiction at Ohio Recovery

If you or someone that you love needs opioid addiction treatment, reach out to Ohio Recovery Centers. We treat all types of opioid use disorders in an outpatient setting, enabling anyone who wants to tackle drug addiction to achieve this without neglecting their everyday obligations.

Some people need a more structured and supportive approach to recovery, so we also offer more intensive outpatient programs.

All opioid addiction treatment programs at our Cincinnati rehab blend holistic and evidence-based treatments to promote long-term recovery.

Call 877-679-2132 today and begin your recovery from opioid addiction tomorrow.

Table of Contents

an image of author 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.
An image of Ohio Community Health staff

Christopher Glover CDCA

My name is Christopher Glover, and I am from Cincinnati, Ohio. I am currently in school and working to grow in competence to better support our community. As a recovering individual I know the struggles that you or a loved one can go through and that there is help for anything you may be struggling with.

The hardest part is asking for help and we are here as a team to best support you and your decision to start your journey towards a better future. Connect with Chris on LinkedIn

An image of Ohio Community Health staff

Amanda Kuchenberg PRS CDCA

I recently joined Ohio Community Health Recovery Centers as a Clinical Case Manager. I am originally from Wisconsin but settled in the Cincinnati area in my early 20s.  My career started in the fashion industry but quickly changed as I searched to find my drive and passion through helping others who struggle with addiction. 

As someone who is also in recovery, I wanted to provide hope, share lived experience, and support others on their journey.  I currently have my Peer Recovery Support Supervision Certification along with my CDCA and plan to continue my education with University of Cincinnati so I can continue to aid in the battle against substance addiction. Connect with Amanda on LinkedIn.

An image of Ohio Community Health staff

Patrick McCamley LCDC III

 Patrick McCamley (Clinical Therapist) is a Cincinnati native who has worked in substance use disorder/co-occurring mental health disorder treatment since 2019. Patrick received his bachelors degree in psychology from University of Cincinnati in 2021 and received his LCDC III (Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor) license from the Ohio Chemical Dependency Professionals Board in 2022. Patrick has worked in Clinical Operations, Clinical Case Management, and Clinical Therapy throughout his career.

Patrick has tremendous empathy and compassion for the recovery community, being in recovery himself since 2018. Patrick is uniquely qualified to be helpful because of the specific combination of his academic background and his own experience in recovery.

An image of Ohio Community Health staff

Bill Zimmerman CDCA

Bill Zimmerman is a Greater Cincinnati Area native who has worked in substance use disorder/co-occurring mental health disorder treatment since 2018. Bill received his (Chemical Dependency Counselor Assistant) license from the Ohio Chemical Dependency Professionals Board in 2020.

Bill has worked in Clinical Operations in both support and supervision, and Program facilitating and 12 step recovery support during his career. Bill has a passion for the recovery community, having been in recovery himself since 1982. Connect with Bill on LinkedIn

An image of Ohio Community Health staff

Taylor Lilley CDCA, PRS

Growing up in Louisiana with addiction running rampant on both sides of my family. A life away from drugs and alcohol seemed impossible for someone like me. I remember what it was like sitting across from someone thinking there is no way they could ever understand what I was going through.

Sharing my experience offers a credibility and a certain type of trust with clients that only someone who has walked down this road can illustrate. To immerse myself further into the field of addiction, I am currently studying at Cincinnati State for Human and Social Services.  I hope I never forget where I came from, if I can do it, so can you!

An image of Ohio Community Health staff

Thomas Hunter LSW

Hello my name is Thomas Hunter. I was born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio. I am a licensed social worker.In my scope of practice I have worked in the areas of mental health and recovery for thirty years. The clients I have worked with in my career have ranged in age from seven to seventy.

I strive each day to serve my purpose of helping those in need and I believe I do so by utilizing all of my experiences to accomplish my goal of supporting those who desire to establish their sobriety and maintain it in their recovery. Connect with Thomas on LinkedIn.

An image of Ohio Community Health staff

Mary D.Porter,LICDC

 My name is Mary D. Porter. I received my Masters of Social Work in 2008 from The University of Cincinnati. I received My Licensed Independent Chemical Dependency Counselor Licensure in 2001. I retired from The Department of Veteran Affairs Medical Center on April 14, 2014. Currently, I am the Associate Clinical Director for The Ohio Community Health Recovery Centers in Cincinnati.. Due to the fourth wave of the Opioid Epidemic in 2019,  I decided to enter back into the workforce to assist the addicted population.

The overdoses were astounding and I wanted to help.  I consider myself  to be an advocate for the addicted population. My compassion, resilience, empathy, wisdom, knowledge, experience and  love I have for this forgotten population goes beyond words. I consider what I do for the addicted population as a calling versus a “career,” because I too was once an “addict and alcoholic.” Today I am 45.5 years alcohol and substance free.

An image of Ohio Community Health staff

Ben Lemmon LCDC III

Hello, my name is Ben Lemmon, and I’m the Vice President and Clinical Director at Ohio Community Health Recovery Centers. I’ve been working in the addiction and mental health field since 2013 and decided to enter the field after overcoming my own challenges with addiction.

When I first meet a client, I always explain to them that the reason we are meeting is because they are not capable of obtaining or maintaining sobriety, and my goal is to create a person that can maintain sobriety. I believe a person’s personality is made up of their thoughts, feelings and actions and my job is to help clients identify the thoughts, feelings and actions that have them disconnected from recovery and provide them with the tools to live a healthy and happy life. Connect with Ben on LinkedIn