Opioid Withdrawal: Symptoms, Medications & Detox

People who develop opioid dependence are at risk of experiencing opioid withdrawal symptoms when they cut down or stop using these drugs.1 This article will help you understand withdrawal, signs of opioid withdrawal, how long opioid withdrawal lasts, whether it’s dangerous, medical detox for opioids, opioid withdrawal medicines, and how to find opioid withdrawal treatment.

What Is Opioid Withdrawal?

People who regularly use or misuse opioids can develop physiological dependence, which is an adaptation the body makes in response to the ongoing presence of a drug.1 When people who are dependent on a drug suddenly stop using it or abruptly cut down their dose, they can experience withdrawal symptoms.1

Dependence is not the same as addiction, which is characterized by the chronic compulsive use of a substance despite negative consequences, but dependence and the associated opioid withdrawal syndrome are listed as diagnostic criteria for opioid use disorder (OUD) in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).2

It’s Important to note that withdrawal does not necessary indicate the existence of an opioid use disorder.2 For instance, people who use opioids for medically indicated therapeutic purposes may develop some degree of physiological dependence and experience a related withdrawal syndrome should the medications be stopped.2

Signs and Symptoms of Opioid Withdrawal

Opioid withdrawal symptoms develop after a person suddenly stops or cuts back their prolonged use of opioids.2 These symptoms can include:2

  • Dysphoric (low) mood.
  • Nausea or vomiting.
  • Muscle aches.
  • Lacrimation (teary eyes).
  • Rhinorrhea (runny nose).
  • Pupillary dilation.
  • Fever and sweating.
  • Goosebumps.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Yawning.
  • Insomnia.

 How Long Does Opioid Withdrawal Last?

The duration and severity of opioid withdrawal can depend on the type of opioid as well as the length of use, method of use, amount of use, genetics, and individual health factors.2-4

In the majority of cases, people who are dependent on short-acting opioids, like heroin, develop withdrawal symptoms within 6-12 hours of their last use.2 Acute withdrawal symptoms for short-acting opioids usually peak after 1-3 days before gradually subsiding.2

People with dependence to relatively longer-acting opioids can develop symptoms over 2-4 days.2,5 Symptoms tend to peak at 3 days and gradually subside over 3 weeks or more.3

In some people, less acute withdrawal symptoms can last weeks to months.2 These more persistent symptoms can include anxiety, dysphoria, anhedonia, and insomnia.2

Is Opioid Withdrawal Dangerous?

Opioid withdrawal is not typically medically dangerous, but symptoms can be intensely unpleasant.3,4

It can be hard to manage opioid withdrawal on your own, and it can cause needless suffering and discomfort, which could result in a return to use as a way of avoiding withdrawal symptoms.2,3 Opioid detox can help minimize and manage withdrawal symptoms as safely and comfortably as possible.3

Detox for Opioid Withdrawal

Medical detox offers a set of interventions designed to manage withdrawal.3 It provides medical support, supervision, and medications that can help minimize withdrawal symptoms, manage potential complications, and help people attain a medically stable, drug-free state.3,4 A medically supervised detox helps to stabilize people in early recovery as their bodies clear themselves of the toxic influence of substances, allowing the treatment team to better manage any physical harms or other health issues related to substance misuse.3

Opioid Withdrawal Medications

Physicians and other treatment professionals may administer various opioid withdrawal medications to manage opioid withdrawal and help people stop using opioids as safely and comfortably as possible.4

Medications that may be used to manage opioid withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Methadone. Methadone is a full opioid agonist, which means that it binds to and activates opioid receptors to minimize withdrawal symptoms, and can blunt or block the effects of illicit opioids, should they be used while on methadone maintenance.3,4
  • Buprenorphine. This is a partial opioid agonist, which means that binds to and partially activates opioid receptors to reduce withdrawal symptoms.3,4
  • Clonidine. This is a nonopioid medication that may sometimes be used off-label to manage opioid withdrawal symptoms.3,4
  • Lofexidine. Lofexidine is in the same class of medications as clonidine, and may also be used to minimize certain opioid withdrawal symptoms.6

Opioid Addiction Treatment in Las Vegas

If you or someone you care about are struggling with opioid misuse or addiction, or are concerned about opioid withdrawal, we are here to help. Desert Hope, our inpatient addiction treatment facility in Las Vegas offers medical detox as well as different levels of addiction treatment. We provide various types of addiction treatment, with a focus on high-quality, individualized care and treatment plans that are tailored to the unique needs of each person.

Whether you’re ready to start the admissions process or you just want to learn more about your detox and rehab options, please call us at to speak to one of our admissions navigators, who can answer any questions you may have and verify your insurance.

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