“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”

-Sun Tzu, The Art of War


The above quote can be easily summarized by saying that if you fully understand what you are up against as well as understand what you are capable of, you drastically increase the odds of your success. There are few places where the stakes are much greater than trying to overcome an opiate addiction. Getting your body through detox is the first step in regaining control of your life. Understanding the withdrawal symptoms that you are going to face, will help put the odds in your favor.

Common Opiate Withdrawal Symptoms

Opiate withdrawal will be a little different for each individual and is largely dependent on the severity of the addiction and the opiates being used. For example, heroin typically leaves your body quickly and will bring on withdrawal symptoms within 12 hours. Methadone, on the other hand, has a longer half-life and stays in your body longer. Withdrawal symptoms will usually take 1 ½ – 2 days to begin to manifest. Here is are the common opiate withdrawal symptoms you can expect:

  • Low energy – fatigue and a general malaise often hit right away and linger on for the first few weeks.
  • Anxiety, Irritability – feelings of anxiety are one of the most reported symptoms of opiate withdrawal. An increase in blood pressure is also common.
  • Insomnia – sleep deprivation is one of the hardest parts of getting through withdrawal for many. Some physicians will prescribe sleeping aids during the initial stages of withdrawal. Use these with caution as they present dangers all their own.
  • Hot and cold sweats – It is a good idea to have a change of clothes and bedding nearby while detoxing.
  • Abdominal cramping, vomiting, diarrhea, and nausea – these all tie together with how opiates interact with your bowel and digestive system. Be aware that the vomiting and diarrhea bring with them the additional threat of dehydration.
  • Runny nose and teary eyes (also known as lacrimation)
  • Muscle aches
  • Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS)
  • Yawning often
  • Rapid heart beat
  • Dilated pupils – these will sometimes even dilate to the point of causing blurry vision.

Opiate withdrawal can be extremely uncomfortable. The symptoms of opiate withdrawal can generally last anywhere from a week to a month. Some of the emotional symptoms such as irritability, anxiety, low energy, and insomnia can last for several months in the cases where one is detoxing off of high doses of opiates.

Knowing what you face can help to prepare you for success.