One of the most challenging aspects of recovery from opiate addiction is the withdrawal process. Many of our patients want to know what to expect from the opiate withdrawal process. However, no two people have the same withdrawal experience. The timeline for opiate withdrawal depends on a variety of factors and differs between individuals. That is why effective treatments for opiate addiction cannot take a “one size fits all” approach. Understanding the typical symptoms of opiate withdrawal can help you make informed decisions about your treatment.
Why Opiate Withdrawal Occurs
Opiate addiction does not develop overnight, and the same is right for recovery from the drug. Opiates — whether heroin or prescription painkillers — exert their effects by crossing the blood-brain barrier and acting on specific brain areas. The opiate molecules bind to particular receptors in the limbic system of the brain, which is responsible for processing rewards and emotional information. When these receptors are activated, the trigger the “rush” or euphoric sensations experienced by opiate users.
Over time, however, the brain becomes numb to the effects of opiates. As the brain and body begin to expect frequent doses of the drug, they prepare a compensatory response. This is the reason why it takes more and more of the drug to achieve the same effect. When the drug is no longer taken, and the body does not get its normal dose, the result is a collection of physical and psychological symptoms.
What to Expect from Opiate Withdrawal
Opiate withdrawal symptoms typically start within a few hours of the drug leaving the bloodstream. They peak between 5 and 10 days. Most people have no residual symptoms after a few weeks, although some people have reported experiencing a post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS) that lasts up to a few months. While individuals have commonly described PAWS in the recovery community as something real, the disorder is not recognized by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders or any other significant medical association. The severity and duration of the opiate withdrawal symptoms can depend on the length of opiate dependence, dosage, metabolism, the drug of abuse, the manner in which drugs are taken, and other factors.
Risks of Opiate Withdrawal
Going “cold turkey” can be dangerous for some opiate users. Patients run the risk of severe dehydration or elevated blood pressure. Furthermore, opiate withdrawal can cause heart irregularities that may be dangerous for patients with certain chronic medical conditions. Professional medical attention is suggested, to keep one safe during the opiate withdrawal process. For example, medical detox protocols help remove opiates from your system and safely manage withdrawal symptoms.
Perhaps one of the most prominent disadvantages of going “cold turkey,” is the high likelihood of relapse or due to the extreme discomfort, some might not even complete the withdrawal process. Professional medical detox is more likely to result in a positive, safe and effective manner to obtain an opiate-free life. The Waismann Method ® located exclusively in So. California has successfully treated thousands of patients and medically assisted them overcome the opiate withdrawal symptoms.