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Opiate Detox: Withdrawal Symptoms and Opiate Treatment

What Are Opiates?

Before we discuss opiate detox, what exactly are opiates? Opiates are a class of drugs used to treat severe or chronic pain. They are more commonly referred to as opioids and come primarily in the forms of pain relief medications, such as:

  • Oxycodone (OxyContin or Percocet)
  • Hydrocodone
  • Tramadol
  • Fentanyl
  • Codeine
  • Heroin
  • Dilaudid (hydromorphone)
  • Demerol
  • Morphine

Typically, opioids come from the opium plant, but some are also man-made (synthetic), such as fentanyl. They stimulate the brain’s opioid receptors, helping reduce feelings of pain. They also cause you to feel deeply relaxed and a bit of euphoria. Reducing pain is wonderful, but opioids also rewire the brain quickly in such as way that it develops intense cravings for more.

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Opiate Detox: Opiate Addiction & Use

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2018, almost 11% of U.S. adults reported using prescription pain medication within the past month. The National Institute on Drug Abuse states that in 2017, almost 18 million U.S. adults reported using pain pills without a prescription from their doctor.

It’s important to note that anyone on opioids, not just misusers, can become addicted to them because of their highly addictive properties. While on pain medication, you can take it as directed, but eventually you’ll need to increase the dosage to achieve the same level of pain relief.

This means that your tolerance has increased, and you need more of the drug to get the desired effect. But the increased dosage means you have a higher chance at becoming dependent on the medication. When you become dependent on an opioid, it can be challenging to stop using them. When you want to stop, your body starts to go through withdrawal. This means that you will contend with uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms until your body goes through the opiate detox process.

The Dangers of Opioid Use

The Center For Disease Control And Prevention reports that of the more than 67,000 overdose deaths in 2018 due to drugs, about 70% were due to opioids. Those who misuse or abuse opioids are at a higher risk of overdose, but it can happen to anyone if they are not careful with their dosage. Opioid overdose symptoms include:

  • Becoming unconscious
  • Cannot talk or slurred speech
  • Breathing becomes very slow and shallow
  • Bluish or greyish skin
  • Vomiting
  • Lips or fingernails turn blueish
  • Heartbeat slows down considerably

If you suspect an opioid overdose, call 911 immediately for help.

Opiate Withdrawal Symptoms

When you begin going through opioid detox, your body goes through a process that removes the toxins associated with the drug(s) you were taking.

How soon will you start feeling withdrawal symptoms?

In as little as 6 to 12 hours after the last dose. You may begin to feel nausea, some anxiety, cravings, and/or mild depression.

During the first few days, symptoms typically intensify and peak. You may experience flu-like symptoms, including muscle aches, sweating, the chills, runny nose, watery eyes, vomiting, and stomachache. Medication is sometimes prescribed to help decrease the intensity of symptoms.

It’s during these few days that the chances of relapse increase significantly because it can be challenging to endure these symptoms. This is why it’s important to have professional support and supervision, because relapsing could cause an overdose.

After the first few days, physical symptoms tend to decrease in intensity some. However, you may still experience diarrhea, insomnia, cravings, body aches, anxiety, and depression.

Withdrawal symptoms vary in intensity and frequency depending on how long you’ve been using them, the dosage, frequency taken, overall health, taper schedule, and more.

Common opiate withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Muscle aches
  • Increased sweating
  • Stomachache
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Fatigue
  • Runny nose
  • Chills
  • Yawning
  • Watery eyes
  • Increased heart rate
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Irritability
  • Restless legs
  • Itching

Ready to Quit?

Talk to an Admissions Coordinator to get started. One of our experts will evaluate your situation, verify your insurance, answer all of your questions, and help you take the first steps.

Why Opiate Detox Is Important

The goal of going through detox is to decrease the severe withdrawal symptoms and help you proceed to the next level of treatment.

Withdrawing from opioids can be mentally and physically challenging. In fact, some people put off trying to get off them because they don’t want to have to endure the daunting withdrawal symptoms. However, undergoing a detox is important to break the addiction. The good news is that the symptoms of opioid withdrawal are typically not life threatening. However, it’s safest to undergo a medically supervised opiate detox.

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How Long Does Opioid Withdrawal Last?

You may wonder how long you’ll have to go through the detox process. The time frame can vary from person to person, based largely on the following factors:

  • Type of opioid
  • How long you’ve been using the drug
  • The dosage and frequency taken
  • Use of other drugs
  • Age
  • Overall health
  • History of drug abuse

Typically, the worst withdrawal symptoms occur one to three days after your last dose. You may feel like you have a horrible case of the flu. Days four and five you may feel a bit better physically, but you’ll still be dealing with cravings and mild withdrawal symptoms.

Usually, within a week or two, most people are feeling better physically. However, it’s really important to build a strong recovery foundation, so we recommend continued treatment.

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How Opiate Detox Works

Opiate detox works by helping you minimize withdrawal symptoms while your body adjusts to the absence of opioids in your system. Staying at a professional medical detox will help you get through the roughest part of addiction recovery. Compassionate and caring health experts will work with you to create your unique, comprehensive treatment plan for detox and continued help.

You can detox from opioids in various ways depending on the severity of addiction. One way is to gradually decrease the dosage of opioids under the supervision of your physician to minimize symptoms. You can also undergo Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT). With MAT, you’re prescribed a less dangerous opioid to minimize the harsher detox symptoms.

Medications like methadone or buprenorphine are common for MAT. However, you won’t be using these medications forever, they are short-term aids for helping people get free from opioid addiction.

You may choose to attend an opiate detox center for a week and then go on to continue treatment at a residential or outpatient setting.

The Importance of Treatment After Detox

There are different options for detox and treatment for opioid addiction. Detox is simply the first step on the recovery path and we always recommend continuing treatment with residential care and outpatient treatment. You could be dealing with triggers and cravings for weeks or months, so you want to be sure you’ve got a strong recovery foundation.

Attending treatment is a great way to get that. You can attend a residential (inpatient) or outpatient treatment setting. If you’re able to leave home and get treatment, a hospital or residential facility will suit you well.

Typically, clients stay for about a month to learn more about the disease of addiction, as well as learn how to manage life without opioids. They’ll also learn about other pain management options if they’re dealing with chronic pain. The fact that you’re supervised 24/7 and have time to solely focus on recovery increases your chances of experiencing long-term recovery success.

If you have family or work obligations, you can attend our outpatient treatment center. You will be able to attend a certain number of sessions throughout the week to strengthen your recovery foundation.

Get Support For Opiate Detox

Here at SOBA, we offer comprehensive, compassionate support through the detox and recovery process. We begin with a monitored detox for between 5-7 days in our state-of-the-art detox center. From there, you can move to a level of treatment care that suits your unique needs. You will have our support through your whole recovery journey.

We’d love to assist you. Give us a call today to learn more about detoxing from opioids and our recovery treatment programs.

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