Opioid Withdrawal

Opioid withdrawal occurs if you've used opioids daily for at least 3 weeks. Symptoms often start about 12 hours after the last dose of the opioid. But this varies greatly. It depends on which opioid you were using and how you were taking it (injecting, snorting, or pills). Withdrawal symptoms last from 3 to 5 days. They may include yawning, sweating, runny nose, restlessness, stomach cramping, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, hot and cold flashes, and trouble sleeping.

Home care

Follow these guidelines when caring for yourself at home:

  • Stay with someone who can help you and give you emotional support during this time. Don't take more of the addicting drug to stop your symptoms.

  • If you have stomach cramps, nausea, or vomiting, take only clear liquids until the symptoms get better. Adults should drink a total of 2 to 3 quarts of liquid daily. It's best to take small frequent drinks rather than a few large ones. You may have liquids in any of these forms: mineral water, apple juice, sports drinks, soft drinks without caffeine, clear broth soups, plain gelatin, and ice pops.

  • If you've been prescribed medicines to help manage your withdrawal symptoms, take them exactly as prescribed. Don't change or stop your medicine without calling your provider.

  • Don't use alcohol, caffeine, or tobacco during this time.

  • If you were given a clonidine patch, leave this on for 7 days. Call your provider if you have excess dizziness or drowsiness.

Follow-up care

Follow up with your healthcare provider as advised. After you've gone through withdrawal, enroll in an outpatient treatment program. Getting through withdrawal is the first step in a long journey to living a drug-free life. Having trained professionals support you will make it more likely that you'll succeed.

When to get medical advice

Call your healthcare provider right away if you have any of these:

  • Fever of 100.4ºF (38ºC) or higher, or as directed by your provider

  • Shaking chills

  • Inability to keep down liquids for 8 hours

  • Frequent diarrhea

  • Signs of infection at the site of IV needle use (redness, warmth, pain, or swelling)

Call 911

Call 911 if any of these occur:

  • Trouble breathing, swallowing, or wheezing

  • Severe confusion

  • Extreme drowsiness or trouble awakening

  • Fainting (loss of consciousness)

  • Rapid heart rate or very slow heart rate

  • Very low or very high blood pressure

  • Vomiting blood, or large amounts of blood in stool

  • Seizure

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