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The Facts About Opioid Withdrawal

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Drug detox allows individuals to cleanse their bodies of the toxins found in the opiates that they have taking for so long. During this time, however, the individual is likely to experience opiate addiction withdrawal, in which the body goes through uncomfortable symptoms readjusting to not having drugs available. Detox is an important first step before beginning a drug rehab program to learn more about your addiction and how to heal from it.

Why Does Opiate Withdrawal Occur?

Brain synapsesOpiate-based drugs such as heroin, Hydrocodone (Vicodin), OxyContin and opium all impact the pleasure centers of the brain. They stimulate these areas so much that when the individual stops taking the drug, they are unable to produce pleasurable sensations on their own.1 As a result, the individual experiences a significant amount of discomfort as the brain and body learn to perform their duties without the opiate present.

How Long Does Withdrawal Last?

Although it depends upon the individual, and the severity of their opiate addiction, most cases of opiate withdrawal generally last between one and two weeks. During this time, the individual is likely to experience a series of withdrawal symptoms as their body reacts to longer having the drug in its system. Opioid withdrawal is not usually life-threatening, but it can be very uncomfortable and even dangerous for some.

What are the Withdrawal Signs and Symptoms?

Every person reacts differently to opiates, but the most common forms of opiate addiction withdrawal include the following:

  • Feeling agitated or anxious
  • Watery eyes
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Runny nose
  • Sweats or chills
  • Muscle and stomach cramps
  • Stomach problems like nausea, vomiting and diarrhea
  • Dilated pupils2
  • Mood changes leading to depression

What Makes Opiate Withdrawal Dangerous?

As mentioned above, the withdrawal symptoms associated with opiate addiction are rarely life-threatening, but there are potential problems. For example, an individual going through withdrawal symptoms may relapse, which can always lead to overdose and other problems. Also, individuals who experience serious depression during withdrawal are at a higher risk for suicide.

For these reasons, and others, it is very important to undergo opioid withdrawal under the care of medical professionals. In detox facilities — either private or in a hospital — caregivers can monitor your vitals and symptoms 24 hours and provide you with interventions to help keep you safe and comfortable.

Sandi found herself addicted to opioids and trying to detox by herself. After realizing she needed help with her withdrawal symptoms, she was able to find great hope through treatment. She reminds people through her Heroes in Recovery story to “never give up on things that can get better. Life happens, but recovery happens too.”

Your addiction can get better, and we can help.

Michael’s House is a residential drug treatment facility that helps individuals move from opiate addiction withdrawal to rehab to aftercare. Please call us at 760.548.4032 to talk to our admissions coordinators about our treatment programs and how we can help you begin your life free from addiction.


1 "How Do Opioids Work?" National Institute on Drug Abuse for Teachers. 16 February 2018.

2 "Opiate and opioid withdrawal." Medline Plus. 20 April 2016.