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How Long Does it Take to Detox from Opiates

opiate word diagram

Prescription opiates (e.g. codeine, Dilaudid, tramadol, etc.) are medications primarily used to alleviate moderate to severe pain. The most commonly known illegal opiate is heroin. When medically prescribed, opiates can be tremendously helpful. However, due to their highly addictive nature, even under the direct supervision of a medical professional an opiate addiction can develop. Opiate abuse occurs if an individual uses more medication than prescribed, ingests the medication in a method other than prescribed (i.e. crushing pills and snorting), takes medication that was never prescribed, and/ or mixes the medication with other substances. In order to cleanse one’s body of opiate abuse, he or she must undergo detox. 


There are several different methods of detox available (e.g. unsupervised detox, supervised detox, medically supervised detox, medically assisted detox, etc.) each offering differing levels of support. Due to the highly addictive nature of opiate drugs, it is best to undergo a medically assisted or medically supervised detox. While in many cases, detoxing from opiates is not necessarily life-threatening it can cause incredibly uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. Any individual who has been using opiates for a prolonged period of time and reduces the number of drugs or abruptly stops ingesting the drugs altogether will experience withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal symptoms are the way one’s body reacts to the lack of substance to which one’s body has become accustomed. A medically assisted detox enables medical professionals to prescribe certain medications that can help with the detox process and minimize some of the adverse withdrawal symptoms. 

Opiate Detox Timeline

Every individual is different and will progress through the detox process at varying speeds. There is, however, a broad timeline provided by American Addiction Centers, which is divided into the following stages:

  1. Anticipatory: Stage one occurs between three to four hours after a person’s last opiate dose. It is the stage that one’s anxiety and fears related to the inevitable oncoming withdrawal symptoms begin to manifest and increase. This is also the stage when a person will begin to experience drug cravings and may exhibit drug-seeking behaviors.
  2. Early Acute: Stage two starts to take over between eight to ten hours after one’s last opiate dose. This is when a person may begin to experience flu-like symptoms and her anxiety levels in relation to the discomforts of withdrawal symptoms continue to rise. Symptoms such as stomachaches, vomiting, nausea, and sweating typically begin to manifest in this stage. Drug cravings and drug-seeking behaviors remain present.
  3. Fully Developed Acute: Stage three typically begins one to three days after an individual’s last opiate dose. During this stage, an individual’s withdrawal symptoms will reach their peak. Drug cravings are the most severe during this stage of detox, as the withdrawal symptoms are the most uncomfortable. Withdrawal symptoms such as muscle spasms, diarrhea, insomnia, elevated blood pressure, and body tremors are common during stage three. 
  4. Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS): While acute withdrawal symptoms have, for the most part subsided, up to twenty-four months after one’s last dose of opiates individuals may experience certain long-term side effects. Mood swings; anxiety, depression, irritability, insomnia, and poor concentration are all common occurrences during stage four. Additionally, drug cravings remain present and individuals remain at increased risk of relapse. 

The severity of the withdrawal symptoms an individual may experience will depend on the type of opiate abused, the current health of the individual, the tolerance level built to the abused opiate, the dosage/ potency of the medication abused, the length of time an individual abused the opiate, if she was simultaneously abusing other substances, and her personal health history. 

For Information and Support 

Substance abuse and addiction can be incredibly dangerous and can result in severe short and long-term consequences. If you or someone you know is suffering from substance abuse or addiction, please get help as soon as possible. The earlier you seek support, the sooner you and your loved ones can return to leading happy, healthy, and fulfilling lives. There is no reason to go through this alone, and we are here to help. Please feel free to reach out to us for further information or with any questions regarding substance abuse or addiction. We are available anytime via telephone at: 213-389-9964, or you can always email us at:

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