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Managing the Opioid Withdrawal Timeline During Detox

According to a study published by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), an estimated 3 million Americans and some 16 million individuals worldwide once or currently suffer from opioid use disorder (OUD). Another study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed that, between 1999 and 2020, over 564,000 people died from an overdose involving prescription and street-level opioids. In this blog, we will discuss managing the opioid withdrawal timeline during detox.

What Makes Opioids So Addictive?

Whether we’re talking about street-level opioids, such as heroin, or their prescription-based counterparts, such as hydrocodone, oxycodone, morphine, or fentanyl, both can profoundly affect the mind and body.  They activate nerve cells in the brain and body known as opioid receptors.  That activation prevents pain signals from traveling from the body to the brain.  But it does not end there; opioids also increase dopamine levels in the brain.  For those unaware, dopamine is a neurotransmitter in the brain that plays an important role in helping to reinforce certain behaviors that result in reward, including the euphoric high that stems from abusing opioids.  Because that euphoric high is so intense, many people who take opioids, even for legitimate reasons, eventually develop an addiction.

Opioid Detox Programs

As bad as the opioid crisis is, there is some good news. Many people are getting the help they need to quit this dangerous drug for good. In 2019, around 2.3 million Americans sought addiction recovery treatment from licensed rehab facilities, many of whom specifically sought help overcoming opioids. That’s according to data published by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Those who sought treatment in an opioid detox program were wise for having done so. And that’s because these facilities are well-versed in opiates recovery and managing the severe withdrawal symptoms that often go hand-in-hand with opioid detox, the body’s way of naturally ridding itself of opioids and other harmful contaminants. Some of these symptoms include the following:

  • Abdominal cramping
  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Diarrhea
  • Dilated pupils
  • Insomnia
  • Muscle aches
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Restless leg syndrome (RLS)
  • Profuse sweating
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Opioid Withdrawal Timeline

As there are many types of opioids, the withdrawal timeline and the associated withdrawal symptoms can vary depending on the type of opioid someone was taking before starting addiction recovery treatments.  The dose someone takes and how long they go between doses also influences the withdrawal timeline.  That said, short-acting opioids, such as immediate-release formulations of oxycodone, hydrocodone, and fentanyl, will trigger withdrawal symptoms 8 to 24 hours after someone takes their final dose. And those withdrawal symptoms can last up to 10 days.  Long-acting opioids, such as extended or controlled-release formulations of morphine, oxycodone, hydrocodone, and fentanyl, on the other hand, often trigger withdrawal symptoms within 36 hours after someone consumes their final dose. And those symptoms can last 14 days or more.  Lastly, heroin typically triggers withdrawal symptoms within 8 to 12 hours after someone last consumed the drug, and the symptoms will usually linger around for about seven days.

Opiate Medical Detox and Monitoring

When someone abruptly quits opioids, the withdrawal symptoms they inevitably face can be very taxing on both the mind and body. And this is why most opioid detox programs in licensed rehab facilities offer opiate medical detox or medication-assisted treatment. So that everyone is on the same page, opiate medical detox entails using prescription-based medications alongside counseling and behavioral therapies to treat opioid use disorders (OUDs). It also includes round-the-clock monitoring by a licensed physician or nurse. Some of the drugs commonly prescribed to individuals struggling with detox symptoms, regardless of where they present on the opioid withdrawal timeline, include the following:

  • Buprenorphine
  • Lofexidine
  • Methadone
  • Naloxone
  • Naltrexone
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Along with these medications, most rehab facilities provide antiemetics, electrolytes, and even benzodiazepines to combat some opioid detox symptoms.  Many also offer psychotherapy sessions with a licensed therapist that can help with the psychological aspects of dealing with and ultimately overcoming opioid addiction.  Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is usually the gold standard for such psychotherapy sessions.  Aside from all of that, there are a few things individuals can do on their own to minimize and even sidestep some withdrawal symptoms, some of which include

  • Asking friends and family for support
  • Fighting intrusive thoughts
  • Finding constructive ways to cope with anxiety
  • Focusing on nutrition
  • Joining a support group

In summary, breaking the cycle of addiction is far from easy when you have an opioid disorder. But that doesn’t mean it is impossible. With the right mindset and help from a licensed rehab facility, many people have put opioid addiction behind them and regained control over their lives. If you’re interested in starting your own journey toward addiction recovery, consider scheduling a consultation with Mind Body Wellness, an innovative outpatient rehab facility in Franklin, Tennessee, today.