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What to Know About Opiate Withdrawal

woman with hands on head experiencing opiate withdrawal symptoms

In the United States, opiate use has reached epidemic proportions. Opiates, which are also at times referred to as opioids (when in synthetic form), include both legal and illegal drugs, both of which hold the potential for use, addiction, and subsequent withdrawal. For those who are addicted to opiates, understanding opiate withdrawal and what to expect can help make the process more manageable. An opioid addiction treatment program can also provide the support needed to make it through withdrawal and eventually achieve long-term sobriety.

Opiate Use and Addiction Can Derail Your Life

When I was in college, I had a good friend named Paul (real name withheld) who began experimenting with many different drugs, including a variety of pharmaceuticals. Though he tried numerous other opiates, due to his access (he stole them from his step-father), he quickly became addicted to OxyContin.

Signs of Opiate Addiction

Paul was very charismatic—he gave credence to the cliche “the life of the party,” so for a long time, this larger-than-life persona masked the underlying travesty of his addiction. I remember sitting on his bedroom floor one day while he was teaching me to play chess. He looked at me, quiet desperation flickering beneath the more predominant defiance within his expression, and said something along the lines of “but I can’t talk without them, I can’t say anything worthwhile, or be social without them.” It was at that moment, with a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach, that I realized he had a very serious problem.

Opiate Withdrawal

Things progressed from there, and eventually, he became fearful and realized that he was in too deep. In addition to his deteriorating health, he had lost his serious girlfriend and suffered the consequences of poor performance at both work and school—all due to his drug addiction. The first time I saw him in withdrawals was very frightening—he was sweaty and agitated, with circles under his eyes—he hadn’t been sleeping. As time and his withdrawals progressed, it seemed I spent more time talking to him through a closed door—nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea kept him in pretty close proximity to the bathroom.

After his first attempt at quitting, he was afraid to try again because of the uncomfortable symptoms that resulted. He also struggled with the psychological implications of the addiction, something that continued for some time even after he was finally able to overcome his addiction. The thing is, he choose to undergo withdrawal alone and was therefore unsupported by individuals trained to offer the expert and attentive care that is crucial at a time like this. I saw the toll that this took on him. Eventually, he used for the last time, but this was after many failed attempts, likely due in large part because he had been striving to do this alone.


The good news is, he did turn his life around. Today he holds down a good job he enjoys—one that he’s had for over a decade. He’s bought a house and has a steady relationship with a partner who understands his past and supports him in his future.

What Are The Symptoms of Opiate Withdrawal?

Opiate withdrawal, also called “dope sickness,” is a set of symptoms that occurs after a person either abruptly ceases or significantly decreases their opiate use. This is because their body has become physically dependent on the drug and no longer functions properly without it. Symptoms can start as early as a few hours after last use, with the peak usually occurring between 24-48 hours later. Symptoms can last anywhere from a few days to several weeks, though they are typically at their worst during the first week.

The most common opiate withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Cravings, both physical and psychological
  • Anxiety
  • Restlessness or agitation
  • Tremor or shaking
  • Involuntary leg movement
  • Difficulty regulating body temperature, characterized by sweating or cold flashes
  • Yawning
  • Dilated pupils
  • Insomnia
  • Runny nose or watery eyes
  • Muscle aches and joint or bone pain
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Gastrointestinal difficulties, such as nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea

Support for Opiate Withdrawal

Even though Paul eventually found happiness, sobriety, and stability, he might have avoided his multiple attempts at sobriety and found these things sooner had he had the support of a treatment center. Woodland Recovery Center Mississippi employ knowledgeable and compassionate professionals who are acutely aware of the demands and treatments surrounding opiate withdrawal.

Even people who are using an opiate for a medically prescribed reason may suffer from withdrawal symptoms. This is because withdrawal is caused by the body’s physical dependence on the drug, which can occur with this use in addition to illicit opiate use. Some people who use prescribed opiates in a manner as instructed by their doctor for pain management may also need assistance during withdrawal. This depends on their level of physical dependence. You don’t have to undergo withdrawal alone. That’s why we’re here: to offer you outstanding care and inspiring support while you go through this crucial time.

Medical Detox for Opiate Addiction

Some drugs don’t require a detoxification period before treatment ensues, but piates are not one of them. They exert a powerful influence on your body’s physiology, namely by affecting your central nervous system (CNS) and the neurotransmitters in your brain. The impacts on your physiology are what cause withdrawal. Your body has become accustomed to the drug, and when it is suddenly gone, or the number of lessons, your body reacts.

We want you to be once again healthy and overcome your addiction in a safe and supervised way, which starts with detoxification. With our help, you can undergo detox care in a supervised medical facility where you will have the support and oversight of our highly trained and compassionate team of medical practitioners 24 hours a day.

Medication-assisted treatment can also help make detoxification more comfortable. Medications like Suboxone can help to ease the symptoms of withdrawal and make detox more tolerable.

Don’t Walk This Path Alone: Call Woodland Recovery Center Mississippi Today

Though opiate withdrawal is an uncomfortable experience, it is a crucial first step on the road to recovery. Remember your chance of recovery increases if you have the support of a treatment center like Woodland Recovery Center Mississippi. We offer multiple levels of care to provide you with the best chance for success. Call our team at 662.222.2989 today if you’re ready to learn more.