Opioid Addiction and Methadone as a Treatment Option

Complete Guide to Opiate Withdrawal Symptoms and Recovery Timeline

recovery after withdrawal

Statistics on opiate overdose in the U.S. shows that over 115 people die every day.

Opiate abuse harms millions of other individuals around the world. Many opiate addicts develop their dependencies from drug prescriptions used to treat viable medical conditions.

Many have suggested that we are entering the age of the opiate crisis and for good reason.

It may be possible to prevent opiate addiction, but dealing with opiate withdrawal symptoms from dependency is a different story. In fact, the severity of opiate withdrawal symptoms is such that they often perpetuate rather than stop an addiction.

In this post, we look closely at opiate withdrawal symptoms and the recovery timeline. Being informed is the first step to helping you or a loved one recover from addiction.

Opiate Withdrawal Symptoms

Opiates refer to drugs classified as having a high potential for abuse or dependence, often leading to severe physical and psychological impact.

Unfortunately, many doctors prescribe opiates for pain treatment and surgery recovery. Some patients taking these opiates develop a dependency immediately and struggle to release this following completion of their prescriptions.

Because opiates are highly addictive, many users develop dependencies in a short amount of time. Addiction surfaces when an individual regularly uses an addictive substance and gradually develops a certain tolerance to dosages.

As tolerance builds, a user must ingest larger amounts of the drug in order to experience its effects.

As your body gets used to these frequent and large dosages, it is more likely to develop withdrawal symptoms when not under the drug’s influence. These symptoms are the body’s response to its dependency.

Symptoms will vary from person to person, and their severity depends on the nature of the addiction, the addict’s gender and weight, and tolerance levels.

The one symptom that is nearly universal in withdrawal experiences is a craving for more opiates. The power of this craving is what many believe to be the linchpin in the cycle of addiction.

6-12 Hours After the Last Dosage

Opiate withdrawal symptoms are likely to appear as early as six hours after an individual takes a dose. People struggling with more severe addictions will experience symptoms sooner rather than later.

However, it is possible to experience these symptoms up to 30 hours after the last dosage.

At this stage of withdrawal, addicts are likely to experience sleep issues, fatigue, and/or insomnia; agitation, including anxiety, hypertension, and a racing heart; or sweating, fever, and/or body aches. Most addicts will have powerful cravings for more opiates.

72 Hours After the Last Dosage

If an individual still has not given into opiate cravings, further withdrawal symptoms are likely to occur 72 hours after the last dosage. These can last as long as a week.

Symptoms can include any of the above as well as nausea, vomiting, depression, abdominal issues, and fever. Body aches are also likely to intensify, and almost all addicts experience longings for further hits.

This stage of the recovery process can be particularly debilitating and even life-threatening. Excessive vomiting can lead to dehydration, choking, and vitamin depletion. Fevers can also invite in other infections and illnesses.

The Opiate Recovery Timeline

Recovering from an opiate addiction is no easy task. Many addicts actively avoid recovery because it often involves dealing with these painful and life-threatening withdrawal symptoms.

While every addict’s recovery process is different, the timeline below gives a good approximation of the withdrawal timeline.

1. The Decision to Recover

The first stage of the recovery timeline lies in an individual’s active choice to recover from an addiction. At this point in the game, an addict may or may not be experiencing active withdrawal symptoms.

Choosing an addiction-free life is no easy task. This is particularly the case if a loved one is struggling with an addiction yet resists the idea of recovery or help from family and friends.

Sometimes a medical emergency induces this decision. In some cases, if an addict has gone to the hospital for severe withdrawal symptoms, a medical detox will occur by necessity.

If you or a loved one is ready to make the decision to recover, we can help. Learn about more information about methadone and how its changing lives.

2. Medical Detox and Intervention

A medical detox often comes right after a decision to recover, particularly if an addict is in the throes of painful withdrawal.

When detoxing, an addict physically releases opiate dependency. Most addicts struggle to detox “cold turkey.”

The best detoxes, therefore, involve medical supervision and/or a medication like methadone. Supervision and medication can ensure a safe and painless release.

Keep the withdrawal timeline in mind as you undergo a detox or intervention. Because withdrawal symptoms often peak 72 hours after the last dosage–and can last for a week–detoxes will require at least 7-10 days.

However, complete opiate recovery is not likely to occur in 2 weeks. Physically recovering from an addiction is only part of the process.

What’s more, physical detox may take longer for individuals with chronic or high-functioning dependency.

3. Further Rehabilitation Work

Further rehabilitation work involving medication, therapy, and/or rehab treatment should be part of the opiate recovery process.

This is because many psychological factors often influence addictions.

It will also take your body a while to get used to life without addiction. This is particularly true for opiate addicts, whose nervous systems are in a constant state of suppression when under the influence.

Recovering addicts may, therefore, have to address other health needs. These may include balanced nutrition, healthy exercise, and treatment for system damage.

Medical professionals are also best equipped to administer appropriate medication and treatment for healthy–and complete–recovery.

Learning More About Opiate Withdrawal Symptoms

Understanding the cycle of opiate withdrawal symptoms is key to comprehending opiate addiction itself. While these symptoms can be life-threatening and the very reason why an addiction continues, they can be managed.

Every individual addicted to opiates will likely withdraw in a different way.

However, most people withdrawing from opiate dependency require a minimum of a few weeks to do so. Effective opiate recovery should also include a therapy or rehabilitation program.

Are you or a loved one struggling with opiate addiction?

It’s possible to effectively manage withdrawal symptoms and healthy recovery with methadone.

Want to learn more?

If so, check out our methadone treatment blog posts today or call us at (855) 976-2092 for more resources to help you make an informed decision about how to navigate the recovery process.


[1] National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2019, January 22). Opioid Overdose Crisis. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/opioids/opioid-overdose-crisis

[2] Controlled Substance Schedules. (2018). Retrieved from https://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/schedules/


About the author

Dr. Michael Carlton, MD.

Leading addictionologist, Michael Carlton, M.D. has over 25 years of experience as a medical practitioner. He earned a bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering and returned for his MD from the College of Medicine at the University of Arizona in 1990. He completed his dual residency in Internal Medicine and Pediatrics and his Fellowship in Toxicology at Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center and Phoenix Children’s Hospital.

He has published articles in the fields of toxicology and biomedicine, crafted articles for WebMD, and lectured to his peers on medication-assisted treatment. Dr. Carlton was a medical director of Community Bridges and medically supervised the medical detoxification of over 30,000 chemically dependent patients annually.

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