With nearly half of Americans taking some kind of prescription medication, the possibility for prolonged use–and in some cases misuse or abuse–is there. Long-term use of a prescription medicine can and often does lead to increased physical dependence and addiction, a complex chronic brain disease.

Opiate withdrawal occurs when an addict reduces or stops their intake of these painkillers. Since opiate narcotics–such as heroin, morphine, and abused painkiller meds–reduce the perception of pain, withdrawal can be physically uncomfortable and painful. With detox and medical intervention, the symptoms of illicit drugs including heroin and painkillers, such as hydrocodone, oxycodone, and meperidine, can be controlled with various opiates and opioid blockers.

Opiate withdrawal is not fatal, but complications from it and the possibility of relapse can lead to death. For instance: someone detoxing from a heroin addiction may relapse and start back using the same amount of heroin they used before detox. Not knowing their body’s tolerance to heroin decreased during treatment could lead to an overdose and death.

Find more information below about the prominent opiate drugs, including:

  • Codeine: Codeine is an opiate prescription medication used to treat mild-to-moderately-severe pain as well as cough. It is synthesized from morphine and combined with other medicines, such as Tylenol with codeine, which is the most common. It is highly addictive, and chronic use can lead to physical dependence and addiction.
  • Darvocet/Darvon: These narcotic pain relievers were withdrawn from the US market in 2010 after the Food and Drug Administration banned them for their heart side-effects. Darvocet contains propoxyphene and acetaminophen. When it was prescribed, patients took it to relieve mild to moderate pain. Both medications may be in circulation as there were people with prescriptions for it before the FDA’s ban.
  • Demerol: Demerol, also known as meperidine, is an opioid medication prescribed to treat moderate-to-severe pain. This medication should not be taken in larger doses or for longer periods than prescribed because of its addictive nature. Even those who have been prescribed the medicine need to be careful as they can become physically dependent on it.
  • Dilaudid: Dilaudid, also known generically as hydromorphone, is an FDA-approved opiate analgesic, which means it changes the way the brain and nervous system respond to the pain. The Drug Enforcement Administration says the drug has high potential for abuse and dependence because it produces tolerance among those who use it.
  • Fentanyl: This potent, man-made opioid analgesic is a Schedule II drug prescribed to people who have pain after surgery or those who have severe or chronic pain. It is similar to morphine, but up to 100 times more powerful by some estimates. When prescribed by a doctor, fentanyl can be given via injection, lozenges or skin patches. But the fentanyl that is showing up in street drugs, such as cocaine and heroin, is being made illegally in secret labs as a powder or in pill form. Its potency has been linked as the cause of many overdoses, many of them fatal.
  • Hydrocodone: This opioid, sold under the brand names Vicodin, Norco, and Lortab, is prescribed to manage pain relief and cough. Tolerance of this drug, which is similar to codeine, heroin, and morphine, can lead to physical dependence and addiction.
  • Methadone: The narcotic drug morphine is used to treat severe, chronic pain and can be taken as a liquid by mouth, a quick-acting tablet or a slow-release tablet or capsule, or injection. It should be taken with care as directed by a doctor as it can stop or slow a person’s breathing.
  • Morphine: The narcotic drug morphine is used to treat severe, chronic pain and can be taken as a liquid by mouth, a quick-acting tablet or a slow-release tablet or capsule, or injection. It should be taken with care as directed by a doctor as it can stop or slow a person’s breathing.
  • Oxycodone: Oxycodone is an opioid pain reliever that is part of the narcotic (opiate) analgesics class. It comes in an extended-release form, which is prescribed to people who require 24-hour treatment for pain. It can cause withdrawal reactions for long-term users or those who took high doses of it.
  • Percocet: Percocet is a prescription medication used to treat moderate-to-severe pain. The drug is a combination of the oxycodone and the over-the-counter pain reliever acetaminophen (the active ingredient in Tylenol). The two drugs are combined because acetaminophen enhances the pain-killing effects of oxycodone.
  • Tramadol: Tramadol, the generic name for this potent prescription pain reliever, is in the narcotic (opiate) analgesics class and is available as a tablet, an extended-release tablet or capsule. When abused, it gives users a high similar to that of opioid drugs. Tramadol has also been involved in overdose deaths, which prompted the Drug Enforcement Agency to reclassify it as a controlled substance in 2014.
  • Suboxone: Suboxone is a prescription medication used to treat people who are addicted to opiate drugs like heroin and Oxycontin. Although this medication is used to help those addicted to opiates, people can also become addicted to Suboxone if the drug is abused.

Illegal Drug Withdrawal FAQs

  • What do opiate withdrawals feel like?

    Opiate withdrawals can be uncomfortable and painful for some. They will vary by the person and the medication that was used, which can be anywhere from six to 24 hours since the last dose was taken. Generally, you should expect to feel some changes after you’ve stopped using.

    People who are going through this phase may feel physical aches and pains, which include muscle aches and cramps, and flu-like symptoms, including a fever, watery eyes, and a runny nose. Other physical ailments may include an upset stomach, diarrhea, chills, and hot and cold flashes.

    There also may be noticeable mood changes. A person in opiate withdrawal may be anxious, irritable, or easily agitated. Some have hallucinations or low energy and may find it hard to sleep.


  • How long do opiate withdrawals last?

    It can take anywhere from a few days to a few months to feel normal. The nature and severity of the symptoms can last a few days to a few weeks, depending on what drug was taken, how long it was taken for and how it was consumed.


  • How do I deal with my opiate withdrawal symptoms?

    The more knowledgeable about the signs and symptoms of opiate withdrawal, the better your chances are of being prepared for what happens.

    People find different ways to manage their condition. Some ride it out until they feel better; some try at-home concoctions and remedies or over-the-counter medicines. It is generally advised for people who want a safe withdrawal to seek help from a treatment center with trained specialists and staff who can ensure the process is safe.


  • When can I go to sleep with opiate withdrawal conditions?

    People who are in withdrawal from a drug may have trouble falling or staying asleep as they recover. It is recommended that people who are finding it difficult to sleep see a doctor who can address their condition and suggest a suitable treatment.


  • What helps with restless legs during opiate withdrawal?

    Some of the drugs administered during detox helps with restless legs syndrome. Also, clonazepam will be prescribed to help with the symptoms of restless legs syndrome. Here are some other prevention methods you can use to help with rls during opiate withdrawal:

    • Sleeping between six to eight hours every night
    • Leg massages
    • Moderate exercise
    • Yoga
    • Icy Hot patch or cream
    • Multiple layers of blankets to cover legs at night
    • Movement

  • Will Darvocet help with opiate withdrawal?

    Although Darvocet is used to treat pain, it does contain an opioid and has addictive properties. It is not recommended to use this drug while withdrawing from opiates. Other medications to stay away from during withdrawal includes:

    • Xanax
    • Vicodin
    • OxyContin

    Tramadol can be used to treat symptoms of opioid withdrawal, such as anxiety, diarrhea, cold and hot flashes, sweating, and nausea. Remember to seek treatment or medical assistance immediately if you or a loved one are suffering from opiate withdrawal. You should not try to withdraw from opiates cold turkey or without medical supervision.


  • Should I go to the ER with opiate withdrawal symptoms?

    If your withdrawal symptoms have reached the emergency room level, call 911 for immediate medical attention and to prevent a more serious situation from unfolding.

    Everyone’s withdrawal experience is unique, so it may be hard to gauge what’s “normal” versus what needs to be addressed right away. The sooner you call, the better.

    Emergency Medical Technicians are trained and emergency rooms equipped to handle more serious withdrawal cases. Much of the time, these symptoms are not life-threatening, but there’s no need to take chances with your health. Seek the best treatment to ensure you are OK.


  • Should I treat opiate withdrawals from home?

    Some users have used at-home methods for detoxing from opiates or opioids while in withdrawal, but it is strongly recommended that you see a medical professional for assistance in quitting to ensure the process is done properly and with your best interests in mind. Quitting cold turkey is not recommended. Give yourself a peace of mind in knowing that you are quitting dependence from opiate withdrawal and/or addiction the right way.

    A licensed treatment center protects you from immediate relapse and assures you have the support you need as you complete your withdrawal process. Drug Treatment Center Finder can help you find a reputable center to help you. Give us a call today at (855) 619-8070 so we can help you start your search.