An opiate withdrawal timeline is something that lists your symptoms on the days that you can expect to notice them. These timelines are widely available online, but they are often written by those in the medical community and not by addicts themselves. This leads to problems, to omissions, exaggerations and underestimations.
It is something that we will look to remedy here as we focus on our own versions of an opioid withdrawal timeline and opiate withdrawal timeline. To see this for yourself, just read below. If it’s withdrawal symptoms, help or other such info that you are looking for then be sure to read our Opiate Withdrawal page, as well as our Stages of Addiction piece.
Opiate Withdrawal Timeline
There is no single opiate withdrawal timeline because each drug will trigger different withdrawal symptoms on different days. For instance, while they are often considered to be “lesser” opiates, drugs like Tramadol offer trigger withdrawal symptoms quickly, they have a peak that lasts for longer and the emotional and psychological effects will last for much longer.
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However, when you focus on the morphine and codeine derivatives, including heroin and codeine cough syrup then the opiate withdrawal timeline is a little more predictable. As with everything on Addictive Addiction, we prefer to write based on experience and to use the direct experience of our team and our readers in order to build a list of symptoms and to better describe the difficulties. So, all of the following was created based on the advice of several people who have been through opiate withdrawals many times in the life.
Opiate Withdrawal: Day 1
If you have been using small amounts of opiates over a long period of time, then it is unlikely that you will notice any major withdrawal symptoms in the first 24 hours. This is different for heavy users though and indeed for users of drugs like heroin (See Heroin Withdrawals). In such cases you will begin to notice withdrawal symptoms within 12 hours, and you may also start to feel a psychological withdrawal much sooner.
The knowledge that you have a long and painful road ahead and that you won’t be able to use opiates in that time can be very hard on the mind.
Opiate Withdrawal: Day 2
This is when the real symptoms begin to take effect. It begins as a feeling of coming down with a cold. The addict may notice that their nose is running constantly and that they can’t stop yawning. These symptoms are generally not considered uncomfortable, so they are rarely even noted by addicts, but they are withdrawal symptoms.
This is also when the feeling of malaise will strike. It’s an uncomfortable feeling and it’s where the term “Cold Turkey” comes from. You start to feel cold, chilly and uncomfortable from the inside out. It feels like you can’t get comfortable in your own skin. It may be difficult wearing clothes in the morning and many addicts find that while showers and baths are a good way of relieving this feeling, the act of dressing into new clothes afterwards can make their skin crawl.
Day two of the opiate withdrawal timeline will likely end with some trouble sleeping. You may feel sluggish and fatigued all day, but you will still struggle for sleep.
Opiate Withdrawal: Day 3, Day 4 and Day 5
This is when the withdrawal symptoms peak. They are the most uncomfortable days in the opiate and opioid withdrawal timeline. The symptoms of day 2 get worse and hit a peak. Along with the tiredness, insomnia and malaise come hot and cold flushes, restless legs syndrome, severe diarrhea, stomach pains. headaches and migraines, and a complete loss of appetite.
One of the other, barely noted symptoms of opiate withdrawal is the libido. It goes through the roof at this point, especially for men. But at the same time they also suffer from premature ejaculation and some addicts report sexual stimulation and even ejaculation just as the mere touch of their genital area.
Opiate Withdrawal: Day 6+
At this point the acute withdrawals are over. The feelings of being uncomfortable in your own skin may still present from time to time and you will likely suffer from sleep disturbances as well. However, this period is mainly associated with strong cravings and anhedonia, which is a state of not being able to derive pleasure from things that you used to enjoy.
Many addicts feel that the uncomfortable feeling associated with the previous days of the opiate and opioid withdrawal timeline helped to keep them occupied and to take their mind off the drug. But when they get to this stage and no longer have such strong physical withdrawal symptoms, they start to convince themselves that a little pill won’t hurt, and when that happens relapse is usually only a step away.
With this stage of withdrawal you need to try and keep your mind occupied, even if that seems impossible. You also need to make sure you eat well, drink a lot of water and keep active. Opiate withdrawal symptoms at this stage can also include restless legs syndrome, which is hard to describe until you have it.
Stretching usually helps with this, as does maintaining a diet rich in foods like potassium, but most of the time you just have to put up with it and know that it probably won’t be around forever.
Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS)
This stage of the opiate withdrawal timeline kicks in after the acute withdrawals fade. It can last for months or even years, depending on the individual case. The major symptoms of PAWS include depression and cravings, but the user may also feel a prolonging of the previous stages of withdrawal, with mood swings and anhedonia, among other things.
PAWS is not as well understood and it is not felt by everyone, but it seems to be more prominent in addicts who struggle to get their life back on track. If you are healthy and stable, then these symptoms might just fade into the background of life.
When Do Opiate Withdrawals Stop?
It really all depends. Your psychology will play a big role in this, almost as big as the drug you used and the length of time you used it for. We have spoken to addicts who were addicted for years and stopped because they were in the process of turning their lives around.
This included a teenage addict who was hooked form the age of 16 to 22. He was a secret addict, taking all kinds of painkillers, and in his early twenties he entered a loving relationship and got a solid job. For him the withdrawal wasn’t as serious as it was for others. He had the willpower because he could clearly see a bright white light at the end of the tunnel.
The same may also apply to successful musicians and actors who get addicted. They know that they will still have money, fame, respect and comfort when they get clean. For someone living on the street, someone who is seriously depressed and someone who doesn’t have a solid foundation to fall back on, it can be much harder. For them, the opiate withdrawal timeline may need to be extended by a few more weeks.
That’s why it is important to address the reasons you used drugs in the first place, while also trying to keep your life afloat.
When Is it Safe to Use Opiates Again After Withdrawal and Addiction?
This is a question that you won’t see answered a lot and it’s one that is hard to answer, but we spoke with a few on-again off-again addicts to try and get an idea.
One of them told us that he used for 3 years and would then enter withdrawal for a couple weeks at a time. When he used again, even if it was just for a day or two, the withdrawals would effectively start over. In other words, he hadn’t cleaned his body entirely and he was sill an addict.
Another former addict who had gone through a similar process ended up getting clean for 2 years after being a long-term user of codeine and Valium. He noted that after 2 days of use he was fine. There were no withdrawals. However, he also had a warning for addicts who think it is okay to do this, and this is a pertinent warning to finish on:
“I was hooked for so long that it felt good to use occasionally and not suffer withdrawals. But one day turned into two. One week turned onto one month. I used it to get through difficult times and I kept telling myself that it would be just one more day, one more week, etc., Several months down the line I tried to go without and the withdrawals hit. I ended up using again. I have now been using for 5 years, all because I decided to try to be an occasional user and realized that as a former addict, occasional use just didn’t work for me.
I class this as my second addiction. It came after I was clean, after I got my life in order. And the irony is that it’s much worse.”