Opioid Withdrawal: With the Right Help, Anyone Can Withdraw From Opioids

What is opioid withdrawal like?Shape

Opioid withdrawal is tough...but with the right help, anyone can get through it. Learn how to beat opioid withdrawal in our blog.

If you or someone you care about is facing the challenges of opioid withdrawal, understanding the symptoms and knowing where to find support can be pivotal in the journey towards recovery. Opioid withdrawal is a critical step toward freedom from dependency, but it comes with physical and emotional hurdles that can feel overwhelming.

This article aims to provide you with a clear overview of what to expect during the withdrawal process and how to access the necessary support, ensuring you don't have to navigate this challenging path alone.

Understanding Opioid Withdrawal

Opioid withdrawal is a critical yet challenging phase in the journey toward recovery from opioid addiction. It occurs when your body reacts to the absence of the drug after a period of regular use. Understanding the mechanics behind withdrawal and dependence is key to preparing for and effectively managing this phase.

What Is Opioid Withdrawal?

Opioid withdrawal refers to a series of symptoms that occur after discontinuation or significant reduction of opioid drugs used habitually. These symptoms arise because the body becomes physiologically accustomed to the presence of opioids, and their absence triggers a series of unpleasant symptoms as the body recalibrates itself.

How Do People Get Addicted to Opioids?

There are several ways in which people can become addicted to opioids. Here are some of the most common ways:

Prescription Medication

Opioids are often prescribed by doctors to help patients manage pain, especially after a surgery or injury. These medications work by attaching to specific receptors in the brain and blocking pain signals from reaching the brain. However, they also produce a sense of euphoria and relaxation, making them highly addictive.

People who use prescription opioids for a long period of time may develop tolerance, meaning that their bodies become used to the drug and require higher doses to achieve the same effect. This can lead to dependence, where the body becomes reliant on the drug to function properly. Dependence can then develop into addiction when a person feels unable to function without taking the drug and experiences withdrawal symptoms when they stop using it.


Some individuals may turn to opioids as a way to cope with emotional or psychological distress. They may use these drugs as a means of self-medicating for conditions such as anxiety, depression, or PTSD. This often starts as occasional use but can quickly escalate into regular and problematic use.

Peer Pressure

Peer pressure plays a significant role in many people's addiction to opioids. This can occur in social settings, such as parties or gatherings where opioids are readily available and used by others. Individuals may feel pressured to join in and try the drug, leading to potential addiction.


Research has also shown that genetics can play a role in opioid addiction. Some individuals may be more prone to developing an addiction due to their genetic makeup and how their body responds to the drug.

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How Withdrawal Develops

  • Discontinuation: When opioid use is reduced or stopped, the body, which has adjusted to its presence, struggles to regain balance.

  • Chemical Imbalance: The sudden absence of opioids exposes the body’s dependence on them, leading to physical and psychological symptoms as it attempts to restore normal functioning without the drug.

Understanding these processes can empower you to approach withdrawal with the knowledge and tools needed to navigate this challenging yet vital step toward recovery.

How Does Opioid Withdrawal Happen?

Opioid withdrawal occurs when a person who has been using opioids for an extended period of time suddenly stops or significantly reduces their use. This can happen for various reasons, such as attempting to quit the drug or running out of medication.

When a person is dependent on opioids, their body becomes used to having the drug in their system. With sudden cessation, the body reacts by producing withdrawal symptoms as it tries to adjust to functioning without the drug.

Withdrawal symptoms can range from mild discomfort to severe and potentially life-threatening complications. Common symptoms include:

  • Nausea

  • Vomiting

  • Diarrhea

  • Muscle aches

  • Insomnia

  • Anxiety

  • Agitation

In severe cases, individuals may experience seizures or respiratory depression.

Symptoms of Opioid Withdrawal

Opioid withdrawal symptoms can be profoundly uncomfortable and are a significant barrier to discontinuing opioid use. These symptoms manifest in stages, with each stage presenting different challenges. Recognizing these symptoms is the first step in managing them effectively and progressing toward recovery.

Opioid Withdrawal: Early-Stage Symptoms (First 24 Hours)

The initial phase of opioid withdrawal typically starts within a few hours after the last dose and can include a variety of symptoms, which often mimic severe flu. Here are some of the early-stage symptoms:

  • Agitation: You may feel unusually restless or irritable.

  • Anxiety: Feelings of panic or intense anxiety are common as the body reacts to the lack of opioids.

  • Muscle Aches: These can range from mild to severe and are often one of the first signs of withdrawal.

  • Increased Tearing: You might experience excessive tearing without emotional provocation.

  • Insomnia: Despite feeling extremely tired, you may find it difficult to sleep.

  • Runny Nose: Similar to cold symptoms, a runny nose is a frequent early sign.

  • Sweating: You may sweat profusely even without physical exertion.

  • Yawning: Excessive yawning is a surprising but common withdrawal symptom.

Opioid Withdrawal: Late-Stage Symptoms (After the First 24 Hours)

As withdrawal progresses, symptoms typically peak and become more intense. These late-stage symptoms can be more severe and require more intensive care and support:

  • Abdominal Cramping: Painful stomach cramps can occur, which are often accompanied by other gastrointestinal symptoms.

  • Diarrhea: Frequent, loose, and watery stools are common and can lead to dehydration.

  • Dilated Pupils: Noticeable enlargement of the pupils is a hallmark sign of opioid withdrawal.

  • Nausea and Vomiting: These symptoms can lead to a significant loss of fluids and nutrients, complicating the withdrawal process.

Understanding and anticipating these symptoms can help individuals and caregivers prepare for the challenges of opioid withdrawal, ensuring that appropriate measures are in place to manage and alleviate the discomfort as much as possible.

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Phases of Opioid Withdrawal

Navigating the complex journey of opioid withdrawal involves understanding its phases. Each phase presents unique challenges and symptoms, which require different approaches and strategies for management. Knowing what to expect during each phase can help individuals and their support networks prepare better for the recovery process.

Acute Withdrawal Phase

The acute withdrawal phase often begins within hours after the last opioid use and can last for about a week. During this time, the body begins to adjust to the absence of the drug, and individuals may experience a range of physical and psychological symptoms. Common symptoms during this phase include:

  • Intense cravings for opioids

  • Agitation and anxiety

  • Muscle aches and pains

  • Sweating and fever

  • Insomnia and disturbed sleep

  • Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea

This phase is often the most challenging due to the intensity of the symptoms, but it is a crucial period where the body expels the opioids and starts to regain natural balance.

Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS)

After the acute phase, some individuals may experience Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS), a longer-lasting but less intense phase of withdrawal. PAWS can persist for several weeks to months, and its symptoms are more emotional and psychological, including:

  • Persistent anxiety and depression

  • Continued insomnia and sleep disturbances

  • Poor concentration and memory problems

  • Mood swings and irritability

  • Low energy and fatigue

  • Ongoing cravings

PAWS can be unpredictable and may ebb and flow, sometimes feeling as though one is taking a step backward in recovery. The duration of PAWS varies widely among individuals, but being aware of its potential can help in preparing coping strategies and support mechanisms.

Understanding the distinct phases of opioid withdrawal is vital for setting realistic expectations and strategies for recovery. It underscores the importance of professional guidance and support, both for immediate withdrawal symptoms and for the longer-term emotional and psychological challenges posed by PAWS.

Treatment Options for Managing Opioid Withdrawal Symptoms

Effectively navigating opioid withdrawal demands comprehensive treatment strategies that address both the physical and psychological facets of dependence. One key aspect of treatment is seeking professional help from a recovery center like ours, The Forge Recovery Center, where specialized programs are designed to manage your withdrawal symptoms safely and effectively.

Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)

At The Forge Recovery Center, we offer supervised Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) programs that combine medical supervision with counseling and behavioral therapies. Our goal is to support your journey to recovery without promoting the use of addictive substances. Here's how we can assist:

  • Professional Supervision: Our healthcare professionals provide close monitoring and administer medications specifically designed to reduce the physical symptoms of withdrawal. This approach helps prevent potential relapse and supports a smoother transition to recovery.

  • Integrated Therapy: Alongside medical support, we incorporate counseling and behavioral therapies that address the psychological aspects of addiction. This holistic approach is crucial for successful recovery and helps ensure long-term sobriety.

  • Customized Care: Every individual’s experience with addiction is unique, which is why we tailor our MAT programs to meet your specific needs, ensuring the most effective and compassionate care.

Supportive Care

In addition to MAT, supportive care is essential for managing withdrawal symptoms effectively. Here are some supportive measures that help make opioid withdrawal easier:

  • Hydration and Nutrition: Detoxing with professional help insures that you stay hydrated and receive balanced nutrition during withdrawal, which can be crucial as your body regains its natural equilibrium.

  • Symptom Management: Various over-the-counter and prescription remedies can alleviate specific symptoms such as nausea, diarrhea, and muscle aches, all under medical supervision to ensure safety and effectiveness.

Find Hope at The Forge Recovery Center

Our admissions coordinators are standing by 24/7 to answer your questions, provide guidance, and schedule an initial assessment. Let us help you determine if our programs are the right fit to meet your needs.


How to Seek Support for Opioid Withdrawal

When navigating the complexities of opioid withdrawal, seeking support is paramount. Interacting with healthcare experts skilled in addiction remedy is crucial, who can provide customized steering and create a tailored plan to manipulate withdrawal signs. They can provide a variety of interventions, along with medicinal drug-assisted treatment, counseling, and behavioral treatments, to deal with the physical, psychological, and emotional components of withdrawal.

Community and Peer Support

Connecting with volunteer groups can be beneficial alongside professional assistance. People who've gone via or are currently going through opioid withdrawal can offer a feeling of belonging, understanding, and encouragement. Support groups offer a platform to study coping strategies, gain insights, and discover new approaches to challenging situations.

Holistic Approaches to Wellness

After getting clinical and community help, holistic well-being methods can contribute to people's general proper health through opioid withdrawal. Incorporating practices consisting of exercising, mindfulness, rest techniques, and healthy nutrition can be a resource in handling signs and selling a sense of self-care and balance.

You Can Get Through Opioid Withdrawal

Navigating the journey of opioid withdrawal is a formidable challenge, but you don't have to face it alone. With the right help, you’ll get through it and live a life worth living.

The Forge Recovery Center will help you find the right detox center for your needs. We maintain valued relationships with many of the nation’s leading drug detox centers. With us, you’ll find safe, effective detox for your budget and needs.

Opioid addiction is often deadly. Don’t risk your life. Talk to The Forge Recovery Center now and learn how you can get through opioid withdrawal.

Are You Struggling with Mental Health or Addiction?

We Can Help. Call Us Now!

CALL: 877-839-1772

Written by

brian-mooreBrian Moore

Content Writer

Reviewed by

jeremy-arztJeremy Arzt

Chief Clinical Officer

June 18, 2024

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