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How Long Does Precipitated Withdrawal Last?

by Will Long

July 21, 2023
supporting someone going through precipitated withdrawal

Precipitated withdrawal lasts up to 72 hours. It tends to be intense but relatively short-lived.

When battling addiction, an individual often experiences a whirlwind of physical and psychological symptoms, challenging their recovery journey. One of the more disconcerting facets of this process is precipitated withdrawal. But what exactly does precipitated withdrawal entail, and how long does it last? Let’s unravel these mysteries together.

What is Precipitated Withdrawal?

Precipitated withdrawal is an abrupt and intensified onset of withdrawal symptoms, typically caused when an individual dependent on opioids receives an antagonist or partial agonist medication like naloxone or buprenorphine, respectively. This sudden onslaught of withdrawal symptoms can feel overwhelming to those in the throes of it, which makes understanding its duration and management vital for progress on the road to recovery.

How Long Does It Last?

The duration of precipitated withdrawal varies, contingent on factors such as the type of drug the individual was dependent on, the half-life of that drug, the amount and frequency of drug usage, and individual metabolic differences. However, in most instances, precipitated withdrawal tends to be intense but relatively short-lived.

Symptoms often commence within minutes to a few hours after the antagonist or partial agonist is administered and peak within the first 24 to 48 hours. These may then subside significantly within the next 48 to 72 hours. Though this timeframe may seem daunting, it’s crucial to remember that each moment spent navigating these choppy waters is a stride closer to a healthier, recovery-oriented lifestyle.

Check out SAMHSA’s digital guide to detoxing and withdrawal, including resources on precipitated withdrawal.

The Stages of Precipitated Withdrawal

Stage One: Administration of Antagonist or Partial Agonist Medication

The precipitated withdrawal process typically begins with administering antagonist or partial agonist medication. Antagonists block opioids from activating their receptors, while partial agonists bind to opioid receptors but activate them less than full opioids. Naloxone is an example of an antagonist, while buprenorphine is a partial agonist.

Stage Two: Onset of Symptoms

Following the administration of these medications, an individual dependent on opioids might experience an abrupt onset of withdrawal symptoms. This sudden and severe manifestation of symptoms distinguishes precipitated withdrawal from the more gradual onset of natural withdrawal. Symptoms may occur within minutes to a few hours and can include a variety of distressing physical and psychological symptoms.

Stage Three: Peak of Symptoms

Withdrawal symptoms often peak within the first 24 to 48 hours. These symptoms might include:

  • Rapid heartbeat
  • High blood pressure
  • Fever
  • Anxiety
  • Agitation
  • Muscle aches
  • Other severe discomforts

Despite their severity, it’s important to remember that these intense symptoms are temporary.

Stage Four: Subsiding Symptoms

After peaking, symptoms typically start to reduce in intensity. This usually occurs within 48 to 72 hours post-peak. The individual may still feel uncomfortable, but the most severe symptoms generally begin to alleviate during this stage.

Stage Five: Transition to Long-term Recovery

Once the storm of precipitated withdrawal is weathered, it’s time to focus on long-term recovery strategies. This might involve continuous medication management, counseling, behavioral therapies, and lifestyle changes to prevent relapse and maintain a recovery-oriented lifestyle.

Understanding precipitated withdrawal stages is crucial to preparing for and managing this challenging recovery phase. At Landmark Recovery, our professionals guide individuals through these stages and offer supportive care throughout the journey.

Management of Precipitated Withdrawal

Although the discomfort precipitated by withdrawal might bring, the good news is it can be medically managed. Professionals at addiction treatment centers like Landmark Recovery provide tailored treatment programs that focus on managing these symptoms effectively. Here’s a glimpse of the management strategies that can help weather the storm of precipitated withdrawal:

  1. Medication Management: Medications like methadone, buprenorphine, or clonidine might be prescribed to alleviate the intensity of withdrawal symptoms.
  2. Psychological Support: Professional counseling and therapy can help individuals handle the psychological aspects of withdrawal and prepare them mentally to continue their recovery journey.
  3. Healthy Lifestyle Changes: Balanced nutrition and regular physical activity can contribute to faster recovery by strengthening the body and improving overall health.

Learn More About How Landmark Recovery Can Help

The journey to recovery isn’t a straight, obstacle-free road. It often includes trials and tribulations like precipitated withdrawal. However, with professional help and personal commitment, navigating these challenging phases and moving forward in the recovery journey is possible.

Find Local Medical Detox Services for Managing Withdrawal

At Landmark Recovery, we specialize in providing compassionate and comprehensive medical detox services. We offer these services in numerous locations across the country, including:

Our mission is to make it easier for you to find local medical detox services. If you or a loved one is navigating withdrawal, please contact our admissions team. Our Patient Navigators are available around the clock on a confidential phone line (888-448-0302).

Landmark Recovery is a beacon of hope for those who feel lost in the labyrinth of addiction. Our caring professionals are ready to provide the support and guidance needed to manage precipitated withdrawal and other hurdles to recovery. The duration may vary, and the path may be tough, but every step is towards a healthier, fulfilling life free from addiction.

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About the Author

Will Long

Will Long

A graduate of Middle Tennessee State University, Long has been a writer for Landmark Recovery since 2021. He specializes in research and writing about substance abuse from a scientific and social perspective. Unearthing information from underexplored, far-flung corners of the Internet, Long’s passion is finding emerging trends in substance use and treatment that the public should know about.