Those not familiar with opiate addiction may not readily grasp what it means to go through opiate withdrawal. For the addicted individual, he or she knows all too well how sick and uncomfortable it feels when withdrawal symptoms begin to surface.
Typical symptoms include diarrhea, muscle aches, cramps, fatigue, chills, runny nose, nausea & vomiting, sweating, shakes, sleeplessness, agitation, and depression. The duration of opiate withdrawal symptoms varies from person to person depending on the type of opiates used, amount, length of time, and method of use.
Some individuals may feel symptoms dissipate after just 1 or 2 days (obviously a preferable scenario). Others may feel withdrawal symptoms for weeks after last opioid use. Continued cravings for opiates may extend well beyond the disappearance of physical withdrawal sickness. This is due in part to structural changes which have occurred in the brain in which additional opiate receptors have been created along with a heightened sensitivity to the absence of opiates.
Cravings, like the other more prominent withdrawal symptoms, tend to fade over time as the body tries to restore an equilibrium. However, drug use urges can be brought on when an individual is exposed to triggers associated with past drug use. There are those opioid dependent persons who seem to never reach a normal equilibrium again, and who may benefit from long term methadone maintenance. This allows them to feel normal, and to achieve a higher level of functioning & comfort. Buprenorphine is now also used for long term maintenance although the vast majority of maintenance cases are achieved through methadone.