The Symptoms of Opiate Withdrawal

symptoms of opiate withdrawal

Opiate withdrawal is difficult, but not life-threatening.

If you, or a loved one, has been abusing a drug like heroin, OxyContin, Vicodin, Norco, or any other opiate, medically-monitored detoxification is the first step in getting clean.

The symptoms of opiate withdrawal include the following:

  • Agitation and irritability

  • Anxiety

  • Muscle aches and pains

  • Increased tearing

  • Insomnia

  • Runny nose

  • Sweating, both hot and cold

  • Yawning

  • Low energy levels

As the amount of time without opiate use continues, the addict can experience the following symptoms:

  • Abdominal cramping

  • Diarrhea

  • Dilated pupils

  • Goosebumps

  • Nausea

  • Vomiting

Withdrawal symptoms generally start around 8 hours after the last opiate use, and can continue for up to a few months, depending upon the individual’s extent of use.

When going through withdrawal from an opiate or opioid, a trained team of medical professionals can assess your symptoms and determine what will help alleviate the discomfort.

Medications are available that a detox treatment team will use to assist an addict during the withdrawal process.

  • Methadone works by blocking the receptors in the brain that allow an opiate in and create its euphoric effects on the person.

  • Buprenorphine works by filling in the receptors that heroin or OxyContin would fill, and therefore blocking any potential feelings of opiate euphoria, and any feelings of withdrawal from a newly-empty receptor.

Many opiate addicts also experience episodes of post-acute withdrawal symptoms that usually last for a few days at a time, and may occur for the first year or two of sobriety, depending on the addict’s brain and body chemistry.

The most common post-acute withdrawal symptoms are:


  • Mood swings

  • Anxiety

  • Irritability

  • Tiredness

  • Variable energy

  • Low enthusiasm

  • Variable concentration

  • Disturbed sleep

The best treatment for ongoing withdrawal symptoms is staying clean and sober. Your brain and body are still calibrating to a life without substances that used to dictate emotion, mood, and levels of pleasure and pain.

Be patient with yourself, and develop a routine of good self-care. You can do it!

photo credit: mislav-m

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