Opioid Withdrawal Timeline

Table of Contents


How long does opioid withdrawal last?” is the most common question asked by those who are thinking of detoxing from opioids (prescription painkillers or fentanyl) or opiates (morphine, codeine, or heroin). The duration and onset of withdrawal symptoms can vary depending on the type of opioid used. Different opioids may lead to earlier or later onset and duration of symptoms.

Read on to discover:

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  • Opioid withdrawal symptoms and timeline: what to expect.
  • How long do opioid withdrawals last?
  • What is a typical opiate withdrawal timeline?
  • Is there an opioid withdrawal medication?
  • What is the most effective opioid withdrawal treatment?
  • How can you connect with opioid detox and addiction treatment in California?

Opioid Withdrawal Phases

Opioid withdrawal develops as a result of physical tolerance leading to dependence. Someone who is dependent on opioids requires the substance to function normally and experiences intensely uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms in its absence. Upon discontinuation, withdrawal symptoms are the physical and psychological response from a system struggling to adapt. 

The withdrawal process unfolds over three stages, each with its own characteristics.

an image of a stethoscope, what someone might see when going through the various phases of opioid withdrawal

Phase 1

When someone taking opioids, cravings for the drug typically emerge, often aligning with the time they would ordinarily take their next dose. The elimination half-life of the opioid influences the timing of these cravings, with shorter half-life opioids leading to more immediate cravings. During this stage, individuals may experience the following opioid or opiate withdrawal symptoms:

  • Anxiety
  • Intense cravings for opioids
  • Frustration
  • Preoccupation with opioids
  • Worsening physical symptoms

Distraction, support, or engaging in pleasurable activities may help manage symptoms, but some people may require treatment at this stage to promote ongoing abstinence rather than relapse derailing early recovery.

Phase 2

As opioids leave the body, withdrawal symptoms become increasingly severe. Most opioid withdrawal symptoms peak on the first few days of detox, although symptoms triggered by extended-release drugs and long-acting opioids may peak later. During this phase of detox, typical symptoms include drug cravings, mood changes, anxiety, depression, gastrointestinal issues, rapid heart rate, changes in body temperature, and flu-like symptoms. This stage poses a high risk of relapse, with many people finding it difficult to distract themselves or think about anything other than opioids. Medications may be used to alleviate withdrawal symptoms during this stage.

Phase 3

In the final phase of opioid withdrawal, symptoms start to gradually subside, usually within a week of the last use. Physical withdrawal symptoms fade away, and psychological cravings become less intense. That said, without proper treatment, mild withdrawal symptoms and the risk of relapse can persist for months or even years. Ongoing support, addressing underlying factors like chronic pain or mental health conditions, utilizing medications for opioid use disorder, seeking support from loved ones, engaging in therapy, and joining addiction support groups are effective strategies for maintaining sobriety and managing long-term recovery.

Enlisting professional help and engaging with comprehensive treatment programs to navigate the different stages of withdrawal and address the underpinning factors contributing to opioid misuse is the most effective pathway to ongoing recovery.

Opioid Detox Treatment Programs

Opioid detoxification (detox) is the first step in overcoming opioid addiction. Opioid detox treatment programs provide a safe and supportive environment for individuals to rid their bodies of opioids while managing withdrawal symptoms. There are several different types of detox programs available:

  • Medically supervised detox: Medically supervised detox takes place in specialized facilities with medical professionals who closely monitor individuals throughout the process. They provide medications to minimize withdrawal symptoms and complications while also offering emotional support.
  • MAT (medication-assisted treatment): MAT combines FDA-approved medications like buprenorphine, methadone, or naltrexone with counseling and behavioral therapies. This comprehensive approach helps manage cravings, reduce withdrawal symptoms, and supports long-term recovery by tackling the physiological and psychological aspects of addiction.
  • Inpatient detox: Inpatient detox programs offer the most structured and immersive treatment environment. Individuals reside within the facility and receive 24/7 medical care, counseling, and therapeutic support. Inpatient detox is especially beneficial for those with severe withdrawal symptoms or co-occurring medical and mental health conditions.
  • Outpatient detox: Outpatient detox allows people to receive treatment while living at home or in a supportive environment like a sober living community. They attend regular appointments with healthcare providers for medication management, counseling, and support. Outpatient detox is suitable for individuals with milder withdrawal symptoms and a stable home environment.
  • Social detox: Social detox programs focus on providing support and a safe environment for individuals with milder withdrawal symptoms and a robust support system at home. These programs offer counseling, peer support, and educational resources to help people navigate the detox process.

After completing detoxification, it is advisable to engage with a comprehensive addiction treatment program in an outpatient or inpatient setting to move beyond addiction by developing superior coping skills.

an image of California Detox's opioid withdrawal treatment center

Get Treatment for Opioid Withdrawal at California Detox

If you need help with opioid detox, we can guide you every step of the way at California Detox in Laguna Beach, CA.

 Our opioid withdrawal protocol includes a detox program that provides access to opioid withdrawal medications so that detoxification is as seamless as possible. Following detox, you can move directly into ongoing treatment. Our 30-day inpatient program delivers supportive and structured therapy that includes:

Call admissions today at 949.694.8305 for immediate assistance and help from detox to discharge and beyond.


While opiate withdrawal can be extremely uncomfortable and lead to serious complications, it is not typically life-threatening on its own. However, in rare cases, severe dehydration, electrolyte imbalances, or underlying health conditions can pose risks during withdrawal.
The timeline of opioid withdrawal symptoms can vary depending on factors such as the specific opioid used, dosage, duration of use, and individual differences. Generally, acute withdrawal symptoms peak within the first few days and gradually improve over a week or two, but some lingering symptoms may persist for weeks or months.


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