Combating the U.S. opioid crisis has become a top priority of political and public healthcare leaders across the nation. Every day, more than 90 people in the U.S. die from opioid-related overdoses. The mass number of people losing their lives to addiction to these highly addictive medications is alarming, and it appears far from over. Opioids were involved in at least 50,000 U.S. adult deaths in 2016, according to afederal government preliminary countannounced in 2017, which is also when President Trump declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency.

The crisis has affected all portions of society, and those who struggle with chronic pain have become especially vulnerable. Unfortunately, the restrictions and new guidelines put in place by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have called for unrealistic tapering periods of opioids. To highlight the intensity of opioid withdrawal symptoms, many chronic pain patients, and long-term users of the drug have resorted to suicide to overcome the symptoms.

Opioid withdrawal is one of the longest studied phenomenons and most well-described withdrawal syndromes. The process can range from moderate to severe, depending on various factors. Unfortunately, many people who use these drugs for pain are pushed to heroin, and studies from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) highlight that 80 percent of heroin users got their start with prescription painkillers. It’s a trend we’ve watched become more prevalent as restrictions on prescriptions have pushed many people to the street. Below we will discuss in-depth symptoms of opioid withdrawal and what can be done to overcome it.

Opioid Withdrawal and Addiction

Opioids are prescription medications that are used to treat people who have moderate-to-severe pain. This class of drugs, which includes the illegal drug heroin, interact and bind with opioid receptors on the nerve cells in the body and brain. They reduce pain messages to the brain and change how users perceive pain.

These medications are intended for short-term use, but the feelings of euphoria, relaxation, and pain relief lead some people to misuse and abuse them. Even people who take them for strictly medical reasons can still develop a physical dependence or psychological dependence on them, which is what is addiction is.

Chronic opioid use, misuse, and abuse that is abruptly stopped or reduced can bring on physically uncomfortable symptoms known as withdrawal. A medically monitored detox at a professional facility can make the complications of opioid withdrawal safer and effective. Recovering users risk overdose and relapse if they do not seek help for withdrawal from these dangerous drugs.

General Symptoms

Although opioid withdrawal can prove to be very uncomfortable and rage from moderate-to-severe, the symptoms are not life-threatening. Symptoms of short-acting opiate withdrawal generally begin after six to 12 hours of cessation, and symptoms of long-acting opiate withdrawal start around 30 hours of cessation. After 72 hours since the last dose, there will sometimes be even more withdrawal symptoms.

It is important to know what the long-acting and short-acting opiate withdrawal symptoms are when it comes to treating withdrawal. After all, it is hard to treat something when you do not know what you are treating. Some of the most common symptoms of opioid withdrawal are:

Early Withdrawal Symptoms (Six-12 Hours)

  • Muscle aches
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Fast heart rate
  • Increased drowsiness/excessive yawning
  • Sweating
  • High body temperature
  • Insomnia

Late Withdrawal Symptoms (72 Hours)

  • Nausea
  • Cramps
  • Depression
  • Cravings
  • Vomiting

Opioid Withdrawal and Addiction Treatment

Opioid addiction can form in as little as a few days, so many people that are addicted may still believe that they are in “safe territory.”

Opioid addiction can be difficult to treat, posing a problem for anyone going through opioid withdrawals. Many will quit taking the drug all of a sudden, or going “cold turkey,” in an attempt to treat their addiction. However, going cold turkey can cause even more severe opioid withdrawal symptoms. For this reason, going through the proper steps in professional treatment is almost always necessary.

Cold Turkey

Quitting “cold turkey” is the most common way that someone will attempt to treat their addiction, but it is also one of the most dangerous.

When a user stops taking opioids cold turkey, it is dangerous and for almost, all physically addictive drugs, it is not only inefficient, but also counterproductive. Instead of quick treatment, quitting opioids cold turkey will almost always result in severe withdrawal symptoms, including seizures and hallucinations.


The first and most crucial step in treating opioid withdrawal symptoms is medical detoxification, or “detox.” Detox is the step in treatment in which all residue leftover from drug or alcohol abuse is rid from the body. This “cleansing” can include everything from emotional support to administered medications.

Constant use of opioids causes the brain to rewire itself in such a way that it believes that only the drug can make it happy.  When the opioids are no longer present, the mind starts to crave the drug. Medical detoxification slowly allows your body to readjust to the sudden lack of drug in which you are struggling.

What to Expect at Maryland House Detox

At Maryland House Detox, we provide the highest quality medical care during your path to complete detoxification, and our staff works around the clock to supervise you and make detox as easy as possible. Once you begin your addiction recovery with MHD, you will receive safe and medically supervised detox with extensive 24/7 care. From marijuana to alcohol, we are excited to be a part of your recovery story no matter the substance.

We understand that other medical issues you may have can and will possibly interfere with the detox stage (diabetes, hypertension, and other physical conditions). Because your detox process is tailored to you specifically, we always take these conditions into account. Detoxification can be difficult, but our compassionate and dedicated staff will make it as comfortable for you as possible.

Our medical professionals, doctors, and nurses will supervise you in detoxification, and for the next five to seven days, they will provide any services that you may need. From diagnostic services to therapeutic services, Maryland House Detox is happy to offer any services we can to ensure a successful detoxification process.

Woman with stomach discomfort

Medications Used in Detox

The most effective method of treating opioid withdrawal is to substitute the client’s drug of choice and taper them off the drug with the support of methadone or buprenorphine. These medications not only alleviate some of the worst symptoms brought on by opioid withdrawal, but they can also shorten withdrawal by precipitating it with narcotic antagonists according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

Excluding those with short-term habits, the best outcome typically will occur with long-term maintenance on methadone or buprenorphine accompanied by psychosocial interventions. Other individuals with strong external motivation may do well using Naltrexone, which is a drug that can be injected monthly to fight off opioid cravings. It has been seen as revolutionary to some.

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