How long does opiate withdrawal last? Here’s what you need to know.
Opiate withdrawal can be excruciating, and one of the most common questions asked by people entering treatment is, how long does opiate withdrawal last? It’s not an easy question to answer, because how long it lasts is different for every individual.
Sometimes, when people ask, how long does opiate withdrawal last, what they really want to know is, how bad will opiate withdrawal be? The answer depends on how you go through withdrawal. If you go through opiate withdrawal cold turkey at home, it can last far longer than if you weather the stages of opiate withdrawal symptoms with the help of a medical detox program. A medication-assisted treatment program can prevent withdrawal altogether.
How Long Does Opiate Withdrawal Last? Medical Detox vs. Cold Turkey
The stages of opiate withdrawal symptoms are the same whether you quit cold turkey at home or quit in medical detox. The symptoms of withdrawal include:
- Intense cravings.
- Runny nose.
- Cold sweats.
- Restlessness, irritability, or agitation.
- Muscle aches.
- Nausea and vomiting.
- Abdominal cramps and diarrhea.
The symptoms of withdrawal can range in intensity from mild to severe, and not everyone will experience all of the possible symptoms. In general, opiate withdrawal can last anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. How long opiate withdrawal lasts for you depends on a number of factors:
- Your age.
- Your general state of physical and mental health aside from the addiction.
- How much is in your system at the time of detox.
- The severity of your addiction and dependence.
- Whether you quit on your own or through a medical detox program.
Opiate withdrawal cold turkey at home can make withdrawal seem to go on forever, but opiate withdrawal through medical detox involves a variety of medications that help reduce the severity of withdrawal symptoms and even shorten the duration of detox. Additionally, high quality medical detox programs often provide complementary therapies like restorative yoga, acupuncture, or massage therapy to increase comfort and wellbeing during detox.
How Long Does Opiate Withdrawal Last in Medication-Assisted Treatment?
Medication-assisted treatment, or MAT, is the gold standard of opiate addiction treatment. It involves a combination of medication and counseling to treat opiate addiction and dependence. While medications are used during medical detox, their use is very short-term. The medications used with MAT can be used for as long as they’re needed.
The medications used during MAT reduce cravings, help restore normal brain function, and, in some cases, prevent the onset of withdrawal symptoms. This helps individuals focus on treatment, and it improves the chances of successful employment and long-term recovery.
Three medications are approved by the FDA for use in MAT:
Methadone is an opioid agonist, which means that it acts on the opioid receptors, although its effects are more gradual and less pronounced than those of other opiate agonists. Methadone prevents the onset of withdrawal, and it blocks cravings. Methadone is only available through a licensed clinic or doctor’s office, which means you need to make a daily trip for dosing.
Buprenorphine is a partial opioid agonist, which means that while it activates the opioid receptors, its effects are far weaker than other opioids, including methadone. Buprenorphine prevents withdrawal, and it blocks cravings. Since its potential for abuse is lower than methadone’s, buprenorphine can be prescribed and taken at home. It’s also available as an implant that lasts for six months.
Naltrexone is an opioid antagonist, which means that while it attaches to opioid receptors, it doesn’t activate them and therefore has no psychoactive effects. Unlike methadone and buprenorphine, naltrexone can’t be taken until after all traces of opiates are out of the body. This means that before taking naltrexone, you have to go through medical detox. A combination of buprenorphine and the overdose-reversal drug naloxone, naltrexone blocks cravings and prevents the effects of opioids if they’re taken while on naltrexone.
Detox is Not Treatment
Whether you choose to go through opiate withdrawal cold turkey at home or withdraw through a medical detox program, simply ending your body’s physical dependence on opiates doesn’t address an opiate addiction. Addiction is far more complex than physical dependence, and it requires a variety of therapies that help you change dysfunctional thought and behavior patterns and develop essential coping skills and a healthy lifestyle.
WhiteSands Treatment can help you detox safely and comfortably from opiates and effectively treat the addiction once detox is complete. Our high quality, holistic program has helped numerous individuals end an opiate addiction, and it can help you, too.
If you or a loved one needs help with abuse and/or treatment, please call the WhiteSands Treatment at (877) 855-3470. Our addiction specialists can assess your recovery needs and help you get the addiction treatment that provides the best chance for your long-term recovery.