How Long Does Anxiety and Depression Last After Quitting Opiate Painkillers?
“I have been taking it for about a year and I'm on day five. I am hurting really bad.” That particular statement from an individual detoxing from oxycodone is rather common, with millions of Americans addicted to opiate and opioid painkillers.
Opiate and opioid painkillers are some of the most effective pain medications on the market today. They are used to treat varying levels of acute and chronic pain, for instance, during and after surgery. They are also effective at treating pain associated with cancer and in the ER to treat injuries such as broken bones and other forms of acute pain.
Despite their efficacy in the hospital setting, opiates and opioids are highly addictive, especially when used for prolonged periods. In fact, many opiate addicts don’t start off by actively looking to get high, but normally get hooked as a result of long-term use of opioid painkillers to manage chronic pain. As such, the number of individuals addicted to opioid painkillers has soared, with the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) estimating that up to 2.1 million Americans suffer from addiction-related health issues from opioid abuse.
A common roadblock for people looking to quit opioid painkillers is the fear of withdrawal symptoms. These are a series of painful and uncomfortable symptoms that often follow shortly after one or two skipped doses. They occur as a manifestation of the body’s inability to adapt to an opioid-free environment after prolonged use. This is one of the main reasons why most people who are addicted to opiates fear coming off the drugs.
Duration of Withdrawal Symptoms
If you are like many people hoping to put a stop to an opiate addiction, you have often wondered how long these symptoms last before you are clean and out of pain. Withdrawal symptoms can be a major distraction from a detox, so it helps knowing how long you need to endure. The exact duration of withdrawals will depend on individual biology, general properties of the specific opioid, and the degree of dependence and addiction.
1. Individual Biology/Differences
“One man’s meat is another man’s poison,” goes the great saying. Indeed, as humans, we are fundamentally different in terms of biology. Some of us are lactose intolerant and others can’t digest meat or dairy products. When it comes to opiates, some people’s bodies can get the drugs out of their bodies fast, which often results in a shorter period for the withdrawals. Other people may have difficulty with the withdrawals, which may end up lasting longer than average.
Pre-existing medical conditions can also lengthen the duration of withdrawal symptoms. Conditions such as cancer and diabetes and medications to treat such conditions can weaken the immune system, making an individual who is already hooked up on opiates more susceptible to longer and more intense withdrawal symptoms.
2. Properties of Opiate Drug
Opiates are a large class of drugs that includes heroin, morphine, hydrocodone, and methadone. Still, these drugs possess significant structural differences at the molecular level that bring out varied reactions among different users. For instance, heroin has been billed as the opiate with the worst withdrawal symptoms. Still, it has one of the shortest duration of such symptoms, mainly because the drug comes out of the system faster (and more violently).
Other drugs such as tramadol have a considerably longer duration of withdrawal symptoms, with most individuals experiencing symptoms for up to 2 weeks.
Opiates that are dispensed as extended-release drugs also take a longer time to leave the system. This means that symptoms often take longer to start – usually up to 48 hours – and also last longer.
3. Degree of Addiction
People who have been on the drug longer often experience a longer bout of withdrawal symptoms. In normal settings, the body produces natural opiates (e.g. endorphins) that help reduce the brain’s perception of pain and also help to regulate certain “feel-good” hormones. Opiates contain certain chemicals that mimic the action of these naturally-produced chemicals, albeit in large quantities.
With continued use, the body reduces and eventually stops producing natural opiates. This leaves the body dependent on the artificial fix and becomes impossible to function without it. When an addict misses a dose or two of the fix, the body reacts by exhibiting withdrawal symptoms. Therefore, the longer you are on the drug, the longer the withdrawal symptoms will last.
Typical Opiate Withdrawal Timeline
The following timeline describes a typical sequence of events from the first missed dose until your body is weaned off the drug, including the duration of withdrawal symptoms.
Depending on the opiate you are taking, symptoms will typically start showing within the first 24 to 48 hours after your last dose. Symptoms will often include muscle aches, abdominal cramps, heavy sweating, joint pain, and nausea.
3 – 5 Days
Your body has now gone days without its regular fix. Most physical symptoms will now be at their peak, with diarrhea, vomiting, and night sweats being the order of the day (and night). The liver and kidneys are working overtime to expel toxins as the drugs are being broken down.
6 – 7 Days
During this period, most addicts tend to feel the full brunt of emotional symptoms. Many get depressed, anxious, and agitated as the physical symptoms begin to subside. These psychological symptoms are usually so severe that most addicts tend to fall back on the drugs. It is common for individuals to critically reflect on past deeds, which tend to be mostly negative.
8 Days and Beyond
Depending on the factors discussed earlier, psychological withdrawal symptoms can continue for weeks or months after your last dose. Anxiety and depression are usually a common narrative during this period.
How to Cope
It is important to realize that the benefits of going clean far outweigh the extent of the withdrawal symptoms. To help you stay the course, eat healthy, stay hydrated, avoid stressful situations, and always strive to distract yourself with other activities, such as hobbies and favorite pastimes.
Add CalmSupport To Your Regimen
Withdrawal aids such as CalmSupport can go a long way in helping you stick to your detox program. CalmSupport is one of the top opiate withdrawal aids that was formulated to help individuals persevere through withdrawal symptoms and eventually get clean. Formulated by naturopathic physicians and registered herbalists, CalmSupport contains bio-available ingredients that were hand-picked by experts in this field. On top of the nutrient packed CalmSupport, you receive a Lifestyle Guide that provides the reader with tips and recommendations that could only be shared by someone with real-life experience of withdrawal. Founder Ryan Donnelly added a great deal of information that he felt was paramount in helping him survive opiate withdrawals and live a happy life in recovery for 7 years.