I am ready to stop using Vicodin, but I have no idea what to expect. Is there some sort of opiate withdrawal timeline?
Well as a matter of fact, there is!
There are two timelines that only differ based on the type of opiate you were most recently using.
Short vs Long Acting Opiates
If you stop taking short-acting opiates, which are heroin, morphine, hydromorphone (known as Dialudid), and hydrocodone (known as Vicodin or Norco), the opiate withdrawal timeline starts with symptoms around 8 to 12 hours after your last use.
In the case of stopping long-acting opiates like methadone, codeine, and oxycodone (known as OxyContin), the opiate withdrawal timeline shows symptoms around 36 to 72 hours after your last use.
The high from short-acting opiates lasts for a shorter amount of time than long-acting opiates, and so do the withdrawal symptoms.
Short-acting opiate withdrawal timeline – starts within 8 to 12 hours, reaches peak (the worst part) within about 48 hours and total withdrawal lasts for 5 to 7 days.
Long-acting opiate withdrawal timeline – starts within 36 to 72 hours, reaches peak around days 4 to 6, and lasts for about 2 weeks total.
For all opiates, the following withdrawal timeline seems accurate:
Day 1 (of actual withdrawal): Your eyes are teary and your nose is running. You may feel tired, but chances are you will not be able to sleep much. You don’t have an appetite, which is setting you up for….
Day 2: All kind of digestion problems. Vomiting, diarrhea, stomach cramps, inability to eat anything, and straight up nausea. You are sweating profusely, even though you may feel like you are freezing. You will wake up sweaty, sweat on-and-off all day, and wake up in the middle of the night drenched in sweat.
To top that all off, you will rarely sleep and your muscles and back are feeling intense pain. You need to drink a ton of water and other fluids to stay hydrated and flush everything out.
Day 3: Eating is still tricky. You probably won’t feel hungry, but if you do try to eat, pretty everything will be coming back out. You get the picture.
The pain you felt in your legs and back, especially, will slowly subside.
Days 4-7: Slow-acting opiate withdrawal symptoms are subsiding. Long-acting opiate users are still experiencing sweating, lack of appetite and sleep, and digestion issues.
Days 7-14: Slow-acting opiate users are in the clear from physical symptoms, but all users will now feel the psychological symptoms of the super-fun opiate withdrawal timeline.
During these days your body is learning what endorphins it needs to create again. Opiates were telling your brain what to feel, but now you are in charge again. Levels of natural chemicals in the brain take time to rebalance. What you feel during this time is generally anxiety and restlessness, plus possible agitation and irritability, mixed with some full-body chills and leg cramps. Oh joy!
But once you make it through this opiate withdrawal timeline, you will never want to use again…because you do not want to go through withdrawal again!
As a quality improvement manager for Balboa Horizons, Kate Green has a passion for helping people with the substance abuse recovery. To learn more, read her post about opiate withdrawal symptoms.