Narcotics Withdrawal Symptoms And Detox From Narcotics

Last Updated: March 16, 2020

Authored by Nena Messina, Ph.D.

Narcotics withdrawal symptoms may occur when the drug is taken away after long use. These symptoms of withdrawal from narcotics can occur with the use of both illegal and prescribed narcotics. They may vary widely depending on individual biological differences and factors related to the medication itself. Narcotics detox is often necessary when people develop a physical or psychological dependence on these medications.

Symptoms And Signs of Withdrawal From Narcotics

According to the established narcotics meaning these drugs relieve pain, produce sleepiness, and euphoria.

However, this also makes these drugs very addictive, and the stop of using such medications usually characterized by withdrawal symptoms. The period of withdrawal from opiate narcotics and other types is often difficult and painful.

Symptoms can appear just hours after the final dose and may last for a week or more. Some symptoms of narcotics withdrawal may be life-threatening. That’s why medications for withdrawal from narcotics are often used to make the process safer and easier.

Early Symptoms

When people are weaning off narcotics, the duration of symptoms may vary depending on how long narcotics stay in system. The early symptoms of withdrawal can include:

  • Muscle aches and pains that vary in severity
  • Sweats
  • Insomnia and other sleep disturbances
  • Agitation
  • Hypertension or high blood pressure
  • Anxiety
  • Running nose or eyes
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Yawning
  • Fever

These symptoms usually appear within 6-12 hours for short-acting narcotics such as heroin and within 30 hours for long-acting ones like methadone.

symptoms of withdrawal from narcotics

Late Symptoms

Late withdrawal symptoms usually appear within 72 hours and often last up to a week or more. They are not usually life-threatening but may be very uncomfortable. They include:

  • Severe drug cravings
  • Depression
  • Stomach cramps and nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Goosebumps

These are the physical symptoms of narcotic withdrawal, and they usually fade after a week. The narcotics withdrawal scale for the severity of symptoms may help to define how much intervention is needed during this time. However, psychological symptoms and cravings can last for a long time. That’s why patients need therapy, psychological support, and treatment from an expert on the subject of how to detox from narcotics.

How Long Does Withdrawal Last?

How long do withdrawal symptoms from narcotics last? This depends on a variety of factors, including:

  • The type of drug taken
  • The dosage
  • How suddenly the person came off the drug
  • The individual’s overall health
  • The drug use extent and duration
  • The environment used for detox

The time that withdrawal takes can vary for specific narcotics depending on whether they are short or long-acting. Short-acting medications take effect quickly but also leave the body quickly. Oxycodone is a short-acting narcotic that is typically used for chronic and acute pain. The acute symptoms of withdrawal typically begin within 8 to 24 hours of the last taken dose and rarely last longer than 5-7 days. However, protracted symptoms can last for up to six months and be very frustrating. Other short-acting medications such as heroin, morphine, and hydrocodone will follow the same approximate timeline.

time that narcotics withdrawal takes

Some long-acting narcotics such as methadone and oral slow-release preparations are less commonly used recreationally. Withdrawal from these medications can take longer. For example, methadone withdrawal symptoms typically appear 1 to 3 days after the last dose and peak at around 6 days. People who are withdrawing from methadone must undergo a tapering off period for the best effects.

Detox From Narcotics

The most suitable detox options for anyone who is addicted to these drugs would depend on the individual situation. A doctor or medical team would be able to determine the safest option depending on a variety of factors such as the individual’s overall health, the type, and duration of drug use, and any complicating issues. They would also be able to give support and help for coping with specific withdrawal symptoms such as memory problems after detoxing from narcotics and other symptoms that may interfere with motivation and the detox process.

Many people try to quit cold turkey, which means doing it rapidly and without medical intervention. This may lead to fatality in complicated cases of long-term abuse or in people who have been taking high amounts of medication.

Detoxification With Essential Oils

In simpler cases, doctors may resort to naturally detox the body after stopping narcotics. This can include the use of herbs and over the counter medications to reduce withdrawal symptoms. These may be effective if the level of dependence is low. It would also be possible to detox from narcotics with essential oils such as lavender for relaxation, rosemary, and peppermint for nausea.

Medical Detox

Medically assisted detox is the safest and the most effective option for people who are addicted to narcotics. Rehabilitation facilities have a drug protocol for narcotics detox. This can help to decrease symptom severity and duration, which lowers the chances of relapse. The programs run by these facilities often focus on behavioral and psychological help with the addiction as well, which can be essential for rehabilitation. Detox is only the first step to long-term recovery.

medication for detox from narcotics

Detox Medications For Narcotics Withdrawal

Some medications for withdrawal from narcotics are very effective and can make withdrawal safer. There is even some evidence supporting the use of marijuana for withdrawal from narcotics. Though the research into this issue is incomplete, there is evidence that suggests it may become a viable treatment for withdrawal symptoms.

Hypertensive for Detox

When people seek out medication assistance during detox, a doctor may prescribe a drug for withdrawal symptoms of narcotics. One drug that many doctors prescribe is clonidine for withdrawal of narcotics. This is an antihypertensive most commonly prescribed for withdrawal from heroin, morphine, hydrocodone, methadone, and oxycodone. Clonidine can block chemicals in the brain that trigger detox symptoms like restlessness, sweating, and watery eyes. It may also help lower anxiety and reduce the time needed to detox.

Anti-Anxiety Medications

Benzodiazepines may be used to help with symptom reduction during withdrawal. Benzodiazepines like Valium, Xanax, and Librium uses in the withdrawal of narcotics include reducing anxiety and irritability. This can be very important during detox from narcotics like heroin. They also have a sedative effect, which can make the detox process easier.

Antidepressants for Detox

Antidepressants are also commonly used during the detox process. People who are addicted often experience chemical imbalances. These imbalances mean their brains can no longer produce happiness-inducing chemicals because they have relied on the drugs for too long to cause happiness. Antidepressants can help correct this imbalance until the brain can get back to normal functioning again.

narcotics detoxification in the hospital

Avoiding Complications from Withdrawal

Despite the government of the U.S. limits the opportunity to buy narcotics online as well as from pharmacies by introducing strict sales rules, narcotic addiction is still becoming more common these days.

Physical and emotional support, supervision, and help are essential as the withdrawal symptoms associated with narcotics can be powerful and have dangerous complications. The earlier in the addiction process people seek help the better the outcome will be, as long-term addiction habits are harder to break. Addictive drugs can also have some very detrimental effects on the body over the long term. So, the longer someone takes these medications, the more likely they are to suffer from health problems on top of the detox symptoms.

When looking for help with detox, it’s important to look for specialized treatment programs. Detoxing in a specialized rehabilitation center that is tailored to individual needs is often the best chance people have for a safe withdrawal period and long-term success at fighting the addiction.

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Published on: October 11th, 2019

Updated on: March 16th, 2020

About Author

Nena Messina, Ph.D.

Nena Messina is a specialist in drug-related domestic violence. She devoted her life to the study of the connection between crime, mental health, and substance abuse. Apart from her work as management at addiction center, Nena regularly takes part in the educational program as a lecturer.


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