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Opiate Withdrawal: Getting Through and Moving Forward

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At some point, all addicts reach a point where continuing to use is more painful than committing to quit.  Symptoms of opiate withdrawal can be menacing.  However, knowing the stages and finding methods of coping can lead to long-lasting recovery.

Phase One:  Detoxing

Researchers at Medline Plus confirm withdrawal symptoms from opiate withdrawal usually begin between 12 and 30 hours of stopping the drugs.  The symptoms can continue for several days or expand into weeks, depending largely on each individual.  The body requires a time of rehabilitation in order to reset the programmed dependence cycle. For help finding an opiate detox center near you, call 877-743-0081 (Who Answers?).

Physical Symptoms of Detox

Because opiates work by binding to the brain’s pleasure receptors and natural chemicals that regulate pain, many physical symptoms erupt when the drug is stopped.  Neurological responses misfire sending erratic messages to all the body’s systems.  Physical withdrawal symptoms to look for include:

  • Headaches
  • Muscle aches
  • Sweating
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Nausea, vomiting and diarrhea
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Chills
  • Tremors and Shakes

Phase Two:  Emotional/Mental Issues

Opiate Withdrawal

Sustainable recovery requires lifestyle changes and self-care.

Addicts’ brains are wired differently.  Extensive research notes differences in the way certain people process chemicals and how they affect dopamine and serotonin uptake in the neural pathways.  Essentially, addicts respond with greater fervor to chemicals like opiates than others who do not have a propensity toward addiction.

Mental and Emotional Withdrawal Symptoms

Coping with mental and emotional withdrawal is important to achieve long-term recovery.  Unlike physical symptoms, which abate relatively quickly, mental and emotional symptoms can last for weeks, months or even years.  Fortunately, they lessen in longevity and intensity as time passes.  Look for the following throughout the recovery process:

  • Craving
  • Mood swings
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Irregular sleep patterns
  • Depression
  • Feelings of hopelessness and despair
  • Suicidal thoughts

Phase Three:  Lifestyle Changes

Opiate use can take people into dangerous places with dangerous people.  The addiction usually drives addicts into association with like-minded people:  other addicts.  Steady changes in lifestyle are necessary to promote physical, emotional and mental wellness.

Activity Changes to Expect

One seasoned addict playfully asked another, “What is the one thing you have to change to begin recovery?”

The addict queried, “I don’t know.  What?”

The first addict responds, “Everything.”

While this tongue in cheek reply doesn’t exactly offer concrete directions for a newly sober person, it is accurate.  Significant changes in lifestyle must be expected to maintain recovery.

  • Changing friendships
  • Diet changes
  • Exercise
  • Reconnecting with social or spiritual groups (or connecting for the first time)
  • Enjoying new hobbies
  • Repairing areas of neglect

Phase Four:  Seeking Meaning

Withdrawal from opiates is difficult and ongoing.  Changes in the brain make the road rocky.  People who are successful in recovery must find a deeper reason to commit to changing deep-seated habits.  Finding a new meaning and purpose in life is critical to combating the craving to return to the quick fix offered in opiate driven oblivion.

A New Way of Life

Addicts in active addiction ravage their lives and the lives of family members.  The new life offered in recovery comes with challenges, but also joys that surpass anything offered by a pill or needle.  Recovering addicts can look forward to changes in these areas, as well.

The symptoms of opiate withdrawal can be difficult.  However, they are not impossible to manage.  Reach out.  Find help.  Enjoy the beautiful new life that can be discovered by committing to move through these recovery phases as opiate withdrawal symptoms ease. We can help you find the best opiate addiction recovery program for your needs. Call 877-743-0081 (Who Answers?) today.


Heller, J. (2016). Opiate and opioid withdrawal:  Medline Plus. U.S. National Library of Medicine. Retrieved from:

Narcotics Anonymous (2006-2008). It’s all about carrying the message:  Fellowship Issue Discussions.  Taking the Next Steps. Narcotics Anonymous World Services, Inc. Van Nuys, CA. Retrieved from:

Kosten, T. & George, T. (2002).  The neurobiology of opioid dependence:  Implications for treatment. Addiction Science and Clinical Practice. 1(1).  13-20. Retrieved from:

Volkow, N. (2014). America’s Addiction to Opioids:  Heroin and Prescription Drug Abuse.  Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control__:  National Institute on Drug Abuse. Retrieved from:

The Dark Night Before the Dawn: Opiate Withdrawal

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