A bell curve showing the progression of symtpoms as someone goes through opioid withdarwal. Opiate withdrawal timeline

Opiate Withdrawal Timeline: What To Expect

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You’re ready to kick opiates. We’re here to tell you what opiate withdrawal is like. What should you expect and when should you expect it?

Withdrawal can be scary. A lot of people want to quit opiates like heroin or opioids like Oxy or fentanyl, but they don’t know what to expect or how they can make it through. So we want to share a breakdown of what you can expect to experience when you quit opiates, and some strategies that can help. (Note that we use the word “opiate” throughout this article, but everything here applies just as much to synthetic opioids.)

Before we get into what withdrawal is like, I want to emphasize that you don’t have to quit cold turkey. For many people, medication-assisted treatment can help them stop misusing opiates so they can get their lives back on track … without going through opiate withdrawal. But if you do experience withdrawal, here’s what to expect:

72 hours after the final dose of opiates:

  • Chills
  • Fever
  • Body aches
  • Diarrhea
  • Insomnia
  • Muscle pain
  • Nausea
  • Dilated pupils

This is the tough part of detox, and we go into it in greater depth on our blog post, “Heroin Detox: The First Three Days Survival Guide.” Withdrawal symptoms during this time are commonly mistaken for the flu, and people often talk about this as being dope sick. The good news? Once you get through this part, you’ll be through the roughest patch.

Things that can help:

Take hot baths or showers. Wear soft and loose clothing. Take your mind off the pain by distracting yourself with TV shows, movies, or magazines. Stay hydrated. Use ice packs or hot compresses. Write yourself notes (before you get to this point) that will remind you of your goals, and put them in your bathroom and over your bed or couch.

1 week after the final dose of opiates:

  • Tiredness
  • Sweating
  • Body aches
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Nausea

The intensity of physical withdrawal will begin to lessen here. Remember that you are still in withdrawal, and take it easy on yourself. Be gentle and kind to your body and mind.

Things that can help:

Minimize commitments and avoid your using friends (and dealer). Change your bedsheets often. Be honest with those you love so they can support you through the emotional anxiety and irritability of opiate withdrawal. Dramamine or Antivert can help with nausea, and ibuprofen or self-massage can help with body aches.

2 weeks after the final dose of opiates:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Restlessness
  • Trouble sleeping

The good news? You are moving past the worst physical symptoms of withdrawal. The bad news? You are moving into the emotional symptoms. These are often overlooked, but just as important as the physical stuff!

Things that can help:

Exercise can help with emotional symptoms as soon as you feel physically up to it. You don’t have to start intense workouts. A gentle walk a day can boost your mood in the same way drugs once did. Try going to sleep at the same time each night and waking up at the same time in the morning. Good sleep habits help. Get support for your mental symptoms! You can get support from Workit Health, 12-step or other mutual support programs, or counseling. You don’t have to struggle alone.

1 month after the final dose of opiates:

  • Cravings
  • Depression

Cravings can linger and can pop up unexpectedly well after physical symptoms of withdrawal have passed. You may also continue to experience other mental effects of opiate addiction, like depression.

Things that can help:

Strategies for getting through cravings like playing the tape through and thinking about your long-term goals can help. A craving won’t last forever, and will eventually fade, no matter how intense it feels in the moment. Self-care is crucial for brain repair to assist with depression post-opiates.

Your life and recovery are worth the effort of getting off opiates.

If you’re looking up what happens during opiate withdrawal, you may already be considering a change for yourself or a loved one. Just thinking about change is the first step towards a different life, and a new life is created by a series of small changes which result in a big one.

You can kick opiates. It isn’t easy, and withdrawal legitimately sucks, but it’s so worth it. And so are you.

Need more tips to make it through opiate withdrawal? We’ve got you.

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This blog has been reviewed for medical accuracy by Shannon Brigham, PA-C.

As Workit Health’s VP of Marketing, Kali Lux leans in to the culture gap between addiction, recovery, and medicine. She’s interested in finding solutions that work for substance users better than drinking or drugging does, and believes Workit is one of them. She’s written extensively on her own experience through addiction into long-term recovery. You can connect with her on Twitter @kalireadsbooks.

Any general advice posted on our blog, website, or app is for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace or substitute for any medical or other advice. Workit Health, Inc. and its affiliated professional entities make no representations or warranties and expressly disclaim any and all liability concerning any treatment, action by, or effect on any person following the general information offered or provided within or through the blog, website, or app. If you have specific concerns or a situation arises in which you require medical advice, you should consult with an appropriately trained and qualified medical services provider.

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