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How To Deal With Depression From Opiate Withdrawal

Depression from opiate withdrawal can negatively impact someone’s mental health, wellness, and path towards sobriety.

Depression From Opiate Withdrawal

Depression from opiate withdrawal is a common side effect that can have long-lasting effects. Fortunately, depression and opiate addiction are both highly treatable. There are several medications and therapies available that have been proven to reduce opiate withdrawal symptoms and help people find recovery. 

What Is Opiate Withdrawal?

Opiate withdrawal, also frequently referred to as opioid withdrawal, is the set of symptoms that occurs when opiate use suddenly stops. Opiates and opioids include drugs such as heroin, morphine, oxycodone, hydrocodone, and fentanyl, which all similarly affect the brain and body.

 Opioid withdrawal symptoms are intensely uncomfortable and closely parallel severe flu symptoms. Fortunately, opiate withdrawal is not typically life-threatening, and opiate withdrawal treatment can vastly improve symptoms and help people break through this first phase of recovery.

How Long Do Opioid Withdrawal Symptoms Last?

But typically, detox from opiates results in symptoms that resolve in a week or two.

The opiate withdrawal timeline differs for everyone, depending on factors like:


  • How long opiates were used
  • Amount of opiates used
  • Age
  • Presence of co-occurring mental illness
  • Use of more than one substance

But typically, detox from opiates results in symptoms that resolve in a week or two.

Symptoms of Opiate Withdrawal

The withdrawal symptoms of drugs such as heroin or oxycodone are the same, though they may vary in intensity or length depending on which drug has been used. Symptoms of opiate withdrawal include:1

  • Depression
  • Muscle aches
  • Sweating
  • Intense drug cravings
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting or diarrhea
  • Insomnia
  • Mood swings
  • Chills

  • Anxiety
  • Sneezing
  • Goosebumps
  • Dilated pupils

Opiate Withdrawal Timeline

Opiate detox can last up to two weeks, but the severity of symptoms typically peaks after just a few days, then gradually gets better. The opiate withdrawal timeline has three stages; these stages will be detailed below.

Stage 1: Early Withdrawal

Early withdrawal typically begins 8 to 24 hours after opiates were last used. Early signs of opiate withdrawal include a runny nose, chills, and sweating. At this stage, people feel sick and uncomfortable. Cravings for opiates begin during this stage.2

Stage 2: Peak Period

The peak period of opiate withdrawal typically happens three or four days after opiates were last used. Signs of opiate withdrawal in this stage include nausea, insomnia, diarrhea, and intense mood swings.

 If left untreated, this stage can be an incredibly intense and harrowing experience, as the withdrawal symptoms of drugs like heroin and oxycodone feel overwhelming.  

Stage 3: Post Acute Withdrawal

After the peak period, the major symptoms of opiate withdrawal begin to subside. People may still feel sick for up to two weeks, but at a much lower intensity than during the peak period. However, post-acute withdrawal can last for months, if not years. This is where depression from opiate withdrawal can kick in, as lingering symptoms can lead people to feel that the promises of recovery have been left unfulfilled.

Oxycodone and depression go hand-in-hand during withdrawal, but mood changes can happen with several drugs, including heroin, morphine, and fentanyl. Depression is the most commonly reported symptom of post-acute withdrawal.3

Opiates and Depression Treatment

People experiencing depression from opiate withdrawal, whether from the use of opiates for depression or new depression resulting from opiate withdrawal, need professional addiction treatment to recover.

 The best treatment centers will combine mental health and addiction treatment services, including:

  • Opiate detox
  • Peer support
  • Individual counseling
  • Medical support during detoxification
  • Family education and counseling
  • Step-down and transitional services
  • Follow-up and ongoing support

These services can help people learn about the risks of substance use, develop healthy coping skills, repair and nurture their relationships, and treat co-occurring mental illnesses simultaneously.

Get Help for Opiate Withdrawal at San Diego Detox

When you’re ready to start opioid withdrawal treatment and get help for co-occurring depression, reach out to the professionals at San Diego Detox. From the moment you call our premier addiction treatment center, our experienced team will be there to support you every step of the way. Don’t delay treatment any longer — recovery is worth the effort.

Do Opiates Cause Depression?

When people feel depressed during the post-acute withdrawal phase, it happens for one of two reasons: 

  • Depression predated opiate use
  • Depression developed as a side effect of opiate withdrawal

The use of opiates for depression that was already present can be a form of self-medication.

Opiate Withdrawal Depression

Depression and opiate addiction can be related, as in the case of oxycodone and depression. Many drugs affect the brain through the dopamine pathway in the brain’s reward network. Opiate use causes a flood of dopamine to enter the brain, giving a strong sense of reward. The longer drug use continues, the more the brain adjusts to these new dopamine levels by cutting back on the receptors which process dopamine when it arrives.

This downregulation of dopamine receptors can make people feel less and less rewarded by pleasurable everyday experiences. Going to the beach for a day may sound great to most people, but someone with opioid use disorder may find the experience boring. This can lead to clinically significant depression from opiate withdrawal and is a key target for treatment.

Common Opiates Used to Self-Medicate

However, the use of opioids for depression that was already present is also common. Opiates used for depression include:

  • Oxycodone
  • Vicodin
  • Codeine
  • Morphine
  • Hydrocodone
  • Fentanyl

The use of opiates for depression may work in the short term. Still, it ultimately leads to a worsening of depressive symptoms, as well as the potential development of an opioid use disorder.4