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Frequently Asked Questions
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What Is Opioid Detox?
Opioid detox is a medical process by which the body is safely and successfully purged of Opioids. The goal of Opioid detox is to minimize the impact of Opioid withdrawal to best enable patients to successfully proceed to the next stage of the treatment process.
Although many (but not all) Opioids can be legally prescribed, these are some of the most addictive substances known to man. All Opioids interact with and stimulate Opioid receptors within the brain to block pain and produce feelings of calm and euphoria. However, they also quickly rewire the brain, forcing the body to adapt to their presence. Eventually, the patient is incapable of functioning normally without their presence.
If someone has developed an Opioid dependence, stopping the consumption of Opioids can trigger many symptoms in as little as 6-12 hours after quitting the drug. This process is known as withdrawal. The symptoms of Opioid withdrawal can be dangerous and extremely uncomfortable, but vary depending on how chemically-dependent the patient is.
Some symptoms of withdrawal include:
- Tension in Muscles
- Abdominal cramps
Opioid detox is designed to minimize these symptoms, as well as keep patients safe from more dangerous symptoms such as hallucinations and seizures. Opioid withdrawal makes it more likely that patients will successfully complete detox without relapsing, and also helps them be in a better mental state before beginning other forms of treatment, increasing the likelihood of long-term sobriety.
The Process of Opioid Detox
Detoxification of Opioids can be done in several ways. Depending on the situation and the level of dependence, one way to detox is to stop consumption of Opioids and take medications to alleviate the withdrawal symptoms. There is also Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT), which is the use of medications in combination with counseling and behavioral therapies for the treatment of opioid use disorders. Medications used for Opioid MAT include Methadone, Buprenorphine (Suboxone, Subutex, and Zubsolv). After detox, individuals can take Naltrexone to reduce cravings.
Many doctors also induce withdrawal rapidly, known as Rapid Opioid Detoxification or ROD. During ROD, the patient is placed under IV sedation with one-to-one medical monitoring. This is done usually in a hospital setting. The IV sedation is general anesthesia and allows them to sleep through their withdrawals. As a result, they do not experience any of the intense pain that is normally associated with most withdrawal processes. After this process is completed, the patient is placed on either Naltrexone or Vivitrol to help reduce cravings. The patient cannot use Naltrexone or Vivitrol until after the detox process or it will induce withdrawal symptoms. Using anesthesia to help cope with the intense symptoms from rapid detox is called Anesthesia-Assisted Rapid Detox.
There is significant controversy regarding whether or not this is an effective or safe treatment method for Opioid detox. Many individuals will go home following this treatment experiencing continued withdrawal symptoms, such as nausea, intense cravings, and other symptoms. Others have the risk of potentially severe adverse reactions, such as heart attack, high body temperature, infection, nausea, vomiting, aspiration, choking, coma, or possibly death. In particular, it is the risk of using anesthesia while detoxing that is dangerous.
Naltrexone is used to prevent relapse; however, many other drugs can be given to reduce cravings and symptoms such as Methadone. These drugs mimic the effects of Opioids in an attempt to adjust the body to lower doses of the drug and complete detox more easily. Additionally, Clonidine is used to reduce the symptoms of acute and post-acute withdrawal.
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How Long Does Opioid Detox Take?
Opioid detox can be a repeated, ongoing process due to high relapse rates. However, the length of an individual detox depends on several factors such as…
- Level of chemical dependency
- How long the user has been abusing Opioids
- How much Opioids they took
- Genetics and age
- Overall health
- Type of Opioid used
- The process in which detox is carried out
- Other substances the patient is addicted to
Taking all of these factors into consideration, detox can last from a couple hours to an entire month before the body starts to function normally once again.
Stages of Opioid Detox
Symptoms of withdrawal depend on tolerance of the drug and the user’s body. Although, you can conclude a typical pattern of symptoms once the drug is no longer in the system:
6-24 hours after drug use has stopped:
- Cravings for the drug begin to intensify
- Anxiety and depression begin to develop
- Nausea and vomiting
Medication is typically prescribed and ramped up during this stage. It is at this point that ROD and Anesthesia-Assisted Rapid Detox are typically begun.
36-48 hours after drug use has stopped:
- Abdominal cramps
- Sweating and running nose
- Nausea and vomiting
- Watery eyes
Medication is typically increased during this stage to its maximum level. Many patients find this to be the most uncomfortable and challenging phase to get through. This often leads to relapse, meaning that supervision and security are especially important.
48-72 hours after the drug has stopped:
- Muscle pain and tremors can occur
During this phase, medication often is at its maximum usage, although in many cases its use is gradually decreased during or immediately after this time. For many, the worst symptoms are felt around the 72-hour mark but decrease in severity after 3 or 4 days. This stage requires intense supervision to ensure patients remain comfortable and do not relapse.
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Are All Opioid Detoxes the Same?
Although there are many Opioids such as Heroin, Morphine, and Oxycodone, the detox process is pretty similar for all of them. You may feel similar symptoms from withdrawal of each drug, and each detox method mentioned above is an option for overcoming each Opioid. In many cases, the severity of the addiction determines the detox process more.
What Are My Options for Opioid Detox?
There are many options for Opioid detox.
Inpatient Opioid Detox
Inpatient detox within a hospital or treatment facility provides medical supervision, proper drugs for pain, and daily monitoring. In almost all cases, inpatient Opioid detox is highly recommended because it is the safest and the most likely to be successful, in both the short and long-term.
Outpatient Opioid Detox
During outpatient detox, the patient comes in to a facility or center during the day (and sometimes night) for treatment and returns home afterwards. Check-ins are frequent since doctors cannot respond with care as fast as an inpatient program. The outpatient option is more suited for a less severe or new addiction or to patients who have responsibilities they cannot leave behind for extended periods.
Rapid Opioid Detox
Rapid detox is another option; however, many avoid this option because there is a chance it might result in pulmonary edema or cardiac arrhythmias.
Find Opioid Detox
If you or someone you love has an addiction to Opioids, help is just a phone call away. It is much more painful to continue addiction than to go through withdrawals that can be reduced with the right medication. Contact a dedicated treatment provider to explore your options and make an informed decision about your future.
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