How Long Will Opiate Detox Take?
Opiate detox can be one of the most difficult hurdles an addict will face on the road to recovery. According to the U. S. National Library of Medicine, as much as nine percent of the population abuses opiates in any given year. Whether detoxing from heroin or prescription pain pills like Dilaudid and Oxycontin, a person can expect to encounter a range of withdrawal effects along the way.
Understanding how opiate detox unfolds can help provide a sense of hope for recovering addicts as this stage of recovery does eventually come to an end. Ultimately, opiate detox marks the beginning of the brain and body’s healing process from the damaging effects of long-term opiate abuse.
The Healing Process
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, ongoing opiate abuse disrupts essential chemical processes in the brain. Not only does the brain become dependent on opiate effects, but also develops an increasing tolerance to the drug for as long as a person uses. In effect, long-term opiate use interferes with a person’s emotional status, digestive system, body temperature regulation and cognitive functions.
The withdrawal symptoms experienced during opiate detox result from the brain’s attempts to restore chemical balance. Once a person starts opiate detox, brain functions may remain in a state of hyper-arousal until chemical levels and processes return to normal. Fortunately, the opiate detox process does wind down and eventually end once normal brain chemical processes resume.
First Stage Effects
For most people, opiate detox consists of three stages with certain types of symptoms developing throughout. First stage withdrawal effects begin within 12 to 36 hours from the last dose of opiates.
This stage, commonly known as the acute withdrawal period, produces the most intense withdrawal effects of all three stages. Stage one typically lasts up to five days, with symptom severity peaking at the three-day mark.
During this time, a person will likely experience the following:
- Stomach cramps
Second Stage Effects
Opiate use causes the brain to secrete large amounts of neurotransmitter chemicals, such as dopamine and serotonin. Over time, these effects deplete brain cell reserves leaving the brain with low levels of these essential chemicals. Second stage withdrawal effects occur as the brain attempts to restore chemical levels back to normal.
This stage can last for as long as two weeks. Insomnia, chills, leg cramps and goose bumps symptoms will likely develop during this time. Probably the most prominent and distressing of symptoms experienced will be depression. The feelings of depression experienced during the second stage can potentially drive recovering addicts back to using again.
In effect, the combined duration for the first and second stages of opiate detox typically lasts for one month.
Third Stage Effects
People who’ve used opiates for a long time will likely encounter a third stage of opiate detox effects while someone with a mild opiate habit will be done with withdrawal at the second stage. Third stage effects can run for as long as three months, though the symptoms (restlessness, anxiety, depression, insomnia) are considerably milder than the first two stages.
Overall, opiate detox can last up to three months long for people with a lengthy history of opiate abuse.