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Opioid Withdrawal: What Is It Like to Detox from Opioids?

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What’s stopping you from finding help for an opioid use disorder (OUD)? Is it the thought of getting through opioid detox and withdrawal symptoms? According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 75% of drug overdose deaths in 2021 involved an opioid such as prescription pain medication or illegal street drugs like heroin.

If you’re concerned about opioid withdrawal, that means you likely already have a physical dependence on and tolerance to prescription pain medication. That addiction opens the door for an overdose or other serious consequences to your health and well-being.

Getting help for opioid addiction is the best course of action. Footprints to Recovery is a full-service addiction treatment center with specialized and certified clinical staff. Our medical detox team has helped countless others overcome an opioid use disorder and move on to a brighter future.

Opioid Withdrawal (Symptoms)

What Are Opioids?

Opioids come in three categories:

  1. Natural: derived from the opium poppy plant (e.g., morphine and codeine)
  2. Semi-synthetic: chemically modified natural opioids (e.g., oxycodone and hydrocodone)
  3. Synthetic: entirely man-made (e.g., fentanyl and tramadol)

Many opioids are medications prescribed by doctors to treat pain. But no matter the type of opioid, taking it over a long period can increase your risk of developing a tolerance and physical dependence. That increases your risk of overdose. 

Opioid Withdrawal Symptoms

Opioid withdrawal syndrome can produce symptoms that vary in intensity and duration depending on: 

  • The type of opioids used
  • How long you’ve been taking opioids
  • The dosage
  • Whether you have other substances in your body
  • Individual factors such as your physiology and metabolism

Opioid withdrawal symptoms emerge when a person addicted to opioids stops or reduces their opioid use.

Some of the most common opioid withdrawal symptoms include: 

  • Runny nose
  • Sweating
  • Muscle aches
  • Severe pain
  • Restlessness
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Insomnia
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea

Treating opioid withdrawal is easier when you trust a professional treatment center with your drug abuse. Management of opioid withdrawal is something the team at Footprints to Recovery can help with. Our alcohol and drug treatment center is a safe and comfortable place to turn your life around. 

What Is the Timeline for Opioid Detox?

One of the first questions many have before they enter a detox program is how long it will take. How long it takes to detox from opioids depends on many different factors like: 

  • The specific drug used
  • How long you’ve been taking opioids
  • The dosage of opioid pain medication you take
  • How severe your withdrawal symptoms are 

Some opioids are short-acting, and withdrawal symptoms tend to occur 6 to 12 hours after the last dose. Short-acting opioids include:

  • Immediate-release morphine
  • Hydrocodone
  • Hydromorphone (Dilaudid)
  • Tramadol
  • Codeine

Other opioids are long-acting, and opioid withdrawal symptoms first emerge within one to two days. Long-acting opioids include:

  • Morphine-controlled or extended-release (Oramorph, Kadian, Avinza)
  • Oxycodone-controlled or extended-release (OxyContin)
  • Fentanyl transdermal (Duragesic)
  • Oxymorphone extended-release (Opana)

Here is a general timeline of how long symptoms of withdrawal last for most people: 

Step 1: Early Withdrawal (begins 6 to 12 hours after last use):

Early symptoms of opioid withdrawal typically start within hours of the last opioid dose. They may include: 

  • Restlessness
  • Anxiety
  • Sweating
  • Yawning
  • Runny nose
  • Teary eyes

Step 2: Peak Withdrawal (begins 1 to 3 days after last use):

The most intense withdrawal symptoms occur during this period and commonly include: 

  • Strong cravings for opioids
  • Muscle aches
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Dilated pupils
  • Insomnia

Step 3: Post-Acute Withdrawal (begins days to weeks after last use):

Some people experience lingering symptoms that last for weeks or months after the acute withdrawal phase. These are known collectively as post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS), and they can include symptoms of withdrawal like:

  • Mood swings
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Difficulty concentrating

Is Medical Detox Necessary for Opioid Withdrawal?

Opioid detox is the process of ridding your body of opioids. It’s often accompanied by opioid withdrawal symptoms, which can shortly after you stop taking the drug. These symptoms range from uncomfortable to dangerous, so opioid detox should always be overseen by medical professionals.

The goal of a treatment center like Footprints to Recovery is to help you stop using opioids and manage symptoms of opioid withdrawal in a safe and comfortable way. Once you are through detox, they can help you move on to other levels of care. 

Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) for Opioids

Opioid withdrawal can be uncomfortable and include symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, sweating, muscle aches, anxiety, and restlessness. As part of medical detox, healthcare providers sometimes offer medications to alleviate these symptoms. 

Common medications used for MAT during opioid detox: 

  • Methadone acts on opioid receptors, just like opioids do. That’s because it is an opioid, making this treatment method somewhat controversial. There is a possibility for misuse and addiction. 

Buprenorphine can help decrease drug cravings. If you relapse, it may block the positive sensations. 

Suboxone contains a combination of both buprenorphine and naloxone. The naloxone also blocks the positive effects of opioids, and it triggers a withdrawal state if you attempt to inject your Suboxone. That means the naloxone can deter a relapse. Both medications can be habit-forming and must be taken as prescribed.

  • Naltrexone (Vivitrol) comes in injectable and tablet forms. It can help reduce cravings. It also blocks opioid action, and there is no potential for dependence.

These medications can be administered under medical supervision to help stabilize you. They’re usually prescribed with tapering, which is a gradual reduction of opioid doses under medical guidance. It can help minimize withdrawal symptoms and make the detox process more comfortable. Tapering can be used with medications like methadone and buprenorphine.

The Dangers of Home Detox

You may think you can get through opioid detox and withdrawal syndrome symptoms on your own. But opioid disorder treatment is best done by experienced professionals at a licensed and certified addiction treatment center. Along with medical supervision to keep you out of danger, a treatment center offers counseling and behavioral therapies that are not available at home.

There are many risks involved with opioid abuse and addiction recovery. Here are some reasons why you shouldn’t try to get through opioid withdrawal on your own:

Severe Withdrawal Symptoms

Opioid withdrawal can be extremely uncomfortable and distressing. Symptoms can include: 

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Muscle aches
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Intense cravings 

In severe cases withdrawal symptoms can lead to dehydration, electrolyte imbalances, and other medical complications.

Medical Complications

Opioid withdrawal can lead to medical complications like: 

  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Heart rate irregularities
  • Dehydration

These complications can be life-threatening, especially if you have pre-existing health conditions.

Risk of Relapse

The intense discomfort and cravings associated with opioid withdrawal can lead to relapse because you may turn to opioid use to alleviate your physical and psychological distress. Relapse during detox can be particularly dangerous, as you may attempt to use the same dose you were accustomed to before detox, which can lead to overdose due to reduced tolerance.

Mental Health Impact

Opioid withdrawal can have a significant impact on your mental health. Symptoms such as anxiety, depression, and irritability can become overwhelming, increasing the risk of self-harm or suicidal thoughts.

Lack of Medications

Certain medications, such as methadone or buprenorphine, are commonly used in medically supervised detox to ease opioid withdrawal symptoms and reduce cravings. These medications are not available to take at home. They require a prescription and medical supervision.

Individual Variation

How long you experience withdrawal symptoms and how severe they are vary widely from person to person, depending on the type of opioids used, the duration of use, and your individual physiology. Without a medical assessment, it’s challenging to predict how intense withdrawal will be.

Co-Occurring Health Issues

Many people with opioid addiction have co-occurring physical and mental health conditions that need to be managed during detox. Attempting detox at home without addressing these underlying conditions can make health issues worse.

Lack of Support

Detox is a challenging process. You will benefit from emotional support and guidance from healthcare professionals or addiction specialists. Without this support, the experience can be overwhelming and demoralizing.

What Is Medical Detox Like at Footprints to Recovery?

Attending a detox program at a specialized detox center offers reliable, effective, and safe treatments overseen by people who have experience with opioid withdrawal management. The first step is an initial consultation where your therapist learns about your opioid abuse, your medical history, and your lifestyle. From there, they will develop a unique detox plan suited to your needs. That plan may involve MAT.

What Happens After Medical Detox?

After you’ve detoxed from opioids, they can help you decide whether continuing treatment is what you want. If it is, your therapist will make an opioid addiction treatment plan.

Opioid Recovery Options at Footprints to Recovery

We offer a full continuum of care for opioid addiction treatment. Our medical detox team can help you end a physical dependence on opioids and find an effective treatment to maintain your sobriety in the future. To treat opioid addiction, our clinical team offers unique levels of care, including:

Medical detox: Before you can move on to a brighter future, you must get all opioid drugs out of your system. Medically supervised detox at Footprints to Recovery is safe and effective. Our clinicians treat opioid withdrawal symptoms to make detox as comfortable as possible.

Residential treatment: Inpatient recovery involves living full-time at our rehab center while you undergo treatment for opioids. The structure of inpatient programming allows you to focus your entire attention on getting sober and overcoming mental health issues. Our team of clinicians creates a personalized treatment plan that best suits your needs. An integrated approach to treatment offers both evidence-based and holistic recovery practices.

Partial hospitalization program (PHP): A PHP is a more flexible treatment option that residential care that still offers a structure for recovery. You attend therapy five days per week while you live at home or in one of our sober living centers. The goal of a PHP is to build on the skills and tools learned in residential treatment to begin the transition back to normal life.

Intensive outpatient program (IOP): Another step down in intensity from a PHP, an IOP involves regular treatments and meetings at a rehab center, but usually fewer days per week and for a shorter duration. The focus is on preparing you to re-enter your normal life free from the pitfalls of substance abuse.

Outpatient program: Outpatient rehab is one of the last steps in recovery. It’s considered a step down from intensive outpatient treatment. This level of care involves building on all the tools and coping skills learned throughout each level of care, ensuring you have what you need to remain sober and keep your mental health on an even keel after completing rehab.


Aftercare is for those who have completed opioid addiction treatment. It’s also called continuing care. It helps you maintain your sobriety, build a support network, and address ongoing challenges related to addiction. Your specific aftercare plan will be built depending on your needs and the treatment program you completed. 

Some common elements of aftercare for opioid addiction treatment:

  • Support groups like Narcotics Anonymous (NA) or SMART Recovery provide ongoing peer support and a structured program to help you maintain sobriety. Regular attendance at these meetings can reinforce recovery principles.
  • Sober living homes can help you by providing an environment where everyone is focused on sobriety. It’s a great place to build a network of support for when life’s triggers threaten a relapse. 
  • Ongoing monitoring and check-ins with healthcare providers, counselors, or addiction specialists can help ensure you stay on track with your recovery goals.

Does Insurance Cover Opioid Detox?

At Footprints to Recovery our goal is to provide substance abuse and mental health treatment that’s accessible to everyone. We do that by accepting most major health insurance plans and providers. Depending on your policy, your insurance may cover all or a portion of medical detox and your treatment costs.

Our team of admissions advisors will work with you to verify your insurance and find the payment option that best suits your needs. We work with your provider directly to provide prior authorization and outline your treatment options. Contact our admissions team today for an insurance verification.

Are you ready to turn your life around? Call Footprints to Recovery and learn more about how we treat addiction to illegal and prescription opioids, plus withdrawal symptoms. Our programs are safe and effective. Don’t raise your risk for opioid overdose. Get help now.

Questions about treatment options?

Our admissions team is available 24/7 to listen to your story and help you get started with the next steps.

David Szarka
Medically Reviewed by David Szarka, MA, LCADC
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