Everything You Need to Know About Painkiller Withdrawal

Every day, 128 Americans die from opioid overdoses. This statistic is frighteningly high, and if you’re currently struggling with addiction, you may wish to get sober to live a healthier and longer life.

But this may be easier said than done, especially since doctors overprescribe painkillers. You might’ve relied on them to get through your excruciating pain, and the thought of not using them is unbearable. But it’s undeniable that your body’s dependent, and you need to get off opioids before it’s too late.

In this article, we’ll discuss everything you need to know about the timeline of painkiller withdrawal so you can get a better idea of what you’ll go through.

Making the Step to Get off Painkillers

The hardest step to recovery is deciding to get off painkillers. So if you’re here, then we congratulate you, as it’s not easy at all.

Your body is highly dependent on opioids, so getting off them will take a huge toll on your body. We highly recommend having a loved one help you get through withdrawal, as you may not be able to do regular everyday things on your own. Having some moral support can also give you more strength to get through this difficult time.

Opiate Recovery Timeline

When you decide to get off of painkillers, you may experience withdrawal symptoms in as little as a few hours, depending on what opiates you were using, how much, and for how long.

Here’s a rough timeline of what you’ll experience as you go through the opiate recovery timeline.

Early Symptoms

As we said above, these symptoms can turn up very quickly after your last use of painkillers. They can start as early as 6 to 12 hours for short-acting opiates or 30 hours for longer-acting painkillers.

Here are the common symptoms of withdrawal in the early stages:

  • Muscle aches
  • Anxiety
  • Agitation
  • Tearing up
  • Trouble sleeping (both falling and staying asleep)
  • Sweating
  • Fever
  • Runny nose
  • Elevated heart rate
  • Hypertension

Again, the severity and extent of symptoms you may experience depend on how heavily dependent you were on the painkillers, what type, and how long you’ve been on them. In the majority of cases (if not all), these withdrawal symptoms will be heavily unpleasant, so you may have to remain home to ride them out.

Later Symptoms

After you’ve experienced the initial symptoms, you’ll hit a peak in withdrawal around 72 hours later. The symptoms include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Stomach cramps
  • Diarrhea
  • Goosebumps
  • Depression
  • Cravings for painkillers

At this point, the withdrawal symptoms are very severe. After they peak at 72 hours, these symptoms will remain for about a week.

That, plus the cravings, causes many people to use opiates again. This is why so many people fail to get sober on the first few tries. Because of this, it’s more important than ever to have some moral support, as it may be just what you need to resist picking painkillers up again.

How to Get Through Opiate Withdrawal

As we’ve mentioned in an earlier section, it’s a good idea to get through opiate withdrawal with a loved one or two by your side. Some symptoms may hit you so hard that you won’t be able to do things like eat, sleep, shower, or go to the bathroom.

Having someone with you ensures that you’re well taken care of and that there’s someone to get you to the ER should anything life-threatening happens. In addition, they’ll be able to support you and talk you out of opioid usage.

However, the best thing for opiate withdrawal is to get professional help. Detox centers have all the resources you need to clear your system of opiates and remain sober.

How Detox Centers Work

Detox centers are places of treatment where medical professionals work with patients to have them safely get off of substances.

There are two types available: inpatient and outpatient. You live at the detox center for the duration of your treatment for inpatient, and for outpatient, you drop in instead. By nature, inpatient treatment is more expensive since you need to stay in a room and use their facilities, as well as eat there.

In any case, when you choose a detox center while you’re going through withdrawal, medical professionals will monitor your vital signs, such as your temperature, heart rate, blood pressure, and respiration levels. They can then prescribe other (non-addictive) medications that may assist withdrawal and alleviate symptoms, such as methadone or buprenorphine. They may even wean you off the opiates during medical detox, which can ward off the more severe symptoms.

After you’ve successfully gone through detox, you can then decide whether you want inpatient or outpatient treatment. Either way, you’ll receive the same level of care.

For example, you regularly see the doctors there to monitor your addiction and to take medications that help you along in recovery. Not only that, but you may also attend counseling sessions, both in group and one-on-one settings.

These can help immensely, as you’ll discover the root cause of your addiction and learn helpful ways to deal with cravings. It can prevent relapse from happening. How long you keep attending counseling is up to you; if you find it helpful, it can be an ongoing thing in your life.

Painkiller Withdrawal Is Tough, But Manageable

It’s true that painkiller withdrawal will be a challenge, but one you get over that hurdle, you’re well on your way to recovery. With the help of your family, friends, and/or professionals, you’ll be able to fully detox and get on the road to sobriety.

All it takes is the courage to get off painkillers and face withdrawal head-on. Once you make that decision, it can only go up from there.

For more information about substance abuse and recovery, please feel free to get in touch with us. We’re more than happy to answer your questions.

Medically Reviewed: September 25, 2019

Dr Ashley

Medical Reviewer

Chief Editor

About

All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

Dr Ashley Murray obtained her MBBCh Cum Laude in 2016. She currently practices in the public domain in South Africa. She has an interest in medical writing and has a keen interest in evidence-based medicine.


All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.