When we think of addiction, normally, our minds go to illegal drugs such as heroin and alcohol. The truth is that one of the more common forms of addiction revolves around substances that are legal to take.
Usually, these substances are prescription drugs – more specifically, painkillers. In most circumstances, people take prescribed painkillers and eventually come off them. Many people don’t and begin to develop a painkiller addiction. Becoming addicted means putting up with painkiller withdrawal if you want to get better. But how long do withdrawals from painkillers last?
If you are addicted to painkillers and want to get better, you should be prepared. It’s important to know about painkiller withdrawal symptoms, how long they last, and the options available to help you recover.
What Causes Painkiller Withdrawals?
People become addicted to painkillers that are opiates, also known as opioids. They are a type of drug that attaches to opioid receptors in the brain, bringing about painkilling effects. They do this by blocking pain messages to the brain and also flooding the brain with dopamine – bringing about feelings of euphoria.
The reason people become addicted is that after prolonged use, tolerance builds. This means you have to take more painkillers to get the same effects as before. Repeated use has affected your ability to produce dopamine naturally, so you need drugs to do so.
If you try to attempt a prescription drug detox, you will go into withdrawal. This happens because your body has adapted to the changes that painkillers cause. If you stop taking them, your body cannot cope with the sudden change (used to the toxic drug) and goes into overdrive, reacting with physical and psychological symptoms. In the short term, the only way to avoid withdrawals by painkillers is by taking the drugs again – leading to a vicious addiction cycle.
The most common opioid painkillers that people become addicted to are codeine, tramadol, fentanyl and morphine. Whilst the opioid crisis is a national issue in the USA, action by GPs under a government directive has seen opioid prescriptions cut by 450,000 in under four years. This is great news, but shows that painkiller addiction is still a problem in the country.
The Main Symptoms of Painkiller Withdrawals
If you go through painkiller detox, you will likely have physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms.
Physical symptoms will likely come quickly, last for days and be more severe. These symptoms include:
- Muscles aches
Later physical symptoms such as high blood pressure, high heart rate and fatigue may persist after other physical symptoms have gone.
Psychological symptoms will come on in the thick of withdrawal. They include:
Cravings for painkillers will likely persist long after everything else has gone – being your major obstacle in your painkiller addiction recovery journey.
How Long Do Painkiller Withdrawals Last?
Now that you know the symptoms you are likely to come against, the next question on your mind should be, “How long do withdrawals from painkillers last?” When you think about this question, it’s important to remember that it is only a temporary experience – no matter how scary it may seem.
Simply put, how long painkiller withdrawal lasts is different for everyone. What is more common is that withdrawal kicks in around 24 hours after taking that last painkiller. From that point, withdrawal can last for days or weeks. In most cases, painkiller withdrawal symptoms will begin to subside after a week. Beyond that point, psychological symptoms may persist, and dealing with them is integral to addiction treatment.
Withdrawal is affected by many factors, which makes predicting the timeline hard to do. Bad mental health can exacerbate symptoms, and a long history of drug use may prolong the experience. Pre-existing medical conditions can complicate withdrawal, and genetics may also have a say.
How Long Do Withdrawals From Painkillers Last?
If you plan to go through prescription drug rehab, it’s good to have a rough idea about the withdrawal timeline. As stated above, it’s different for everyone, but being clued up can help you be less anxious about the experience.
Painkiller withdrawal tends to come in three stages that, as said before, take place over around a week.
- Day One – the first day can be the hardest. You will likely suffer from intense cravings and the full gamut of symptoms explored above.
- Day Two – symptoms may begin to worsen. You might start to go through flu-like symptoms such as a runny nose and sweats whilst suffering anxiety and insomnia.
- Day Three – this marks the peak of symptoms and the beginning of the fall. It may still be hard to keep food down, but the pain should be more manageable now.
- Day Four – symptoms will still be present, but the intensity should have decreased.
Day Five to Ten – most physical symptoms may have tapered off considerably by now. There may still be lingering symptoms, such as insomnia and anxiety.
Beyond these stages, symptoms may persist, and cravings will stay with you for weeks and even months.
Coping with Painkiller Withdrawals
Managing withdrawal symptoms is important to getting through it. To help ease symptoms, there are simple things you can do, such as eating well and staying hydrated. You should take hot baths to ease muscle aches and distract yourself by exercising when you can and entertaining yourself. Being a couch potato during times when you aren’t exercising can be a good thing – films and TV offer an easy distraction to bring relief to your overwhelmed body and mind.
Seeking Help and Support for Painkiller Withdrawal
If you are worried about withdrawal, then you should consider seeking help for painkiller addiction. Beyond services offered by the NHS, organisations like Rehab Clinics Group can provide the treatment you seek.
We offer a detox programme suited to your situation, making you as comfortable as possible. Beyond that, you’ll be a part of an addiction treatment plan catered to you that gives you the best chance at achieving long-term recovery. Beyond dealing with the physical side of addiction, counselling will help you uncover the reasons for your addiction and provide you with coping skills to get better.
Even after you leave rehab, our aftercare programme means you have access to a support network that can help you through those difficult first post-rehab months.
Get Help with Painkiller Withdrawal Today
If you want to know more about withdrawals from painkillers and the residential addiction treatment we offer at Rehab Clinics Group, then get in touch. Call us at 0800 470 0382 or text HELP to 83222 to get help today.