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Opioid/Opiate Detox – What to Expect

Detoxing from opioids/opiates is notorious for being a particularly difficult process, mainly because after extended use, your body craves more of the drug to achieve the same effect. It’s one of the reasons why physical dependence on opioids, and the inherent challenges involved in overcoming it, have been extensively explored in films, TV shows, music, books and more.

It’s no secret that detoxing from opioids/opiates carries with it an array of challenging physical symptoms, which come as a direct result of withdrawal from the substances. This withdrawal process can result in physical illness and discomfort. If you require help with an  addiction and you are worried about the detox process, knowing what may be in store can help you mentally and emotionally prepare for the process.

Initial Opioid/Opiate Withdrawal Symptoms :

Detoxing from opioids/opiates is uniquely experienced by everyone who goes through the process. Symptoms generally start to appear about 24 hours after the last use. These can be both physical and psychological, and may include the following:

  • Anxiety
  • Fatigue
  • Sweating
  • Aching muscles and joints
  • Irritability and restlessness
  • Runny nose and eyes
  • Sleep disturbances

Opioids vs. Opiates

They are often mentioned interchangeably, but opioids and opiates are different although the “high” is the same. In simplest terms, opioids are synthetic and typically prescribed for pain. They include:

  • Codeine (only available in generic form)
  • Fentanyl (Actiq, Abstral, Duragesic, Fentora)
  • Hydrocodone
  • Hydrocodone/acetaminophen (Lorcet, Lortab, Norco, Vicodin)
  • Hydromorphone (Dilaudid, Exalgo)
  • Meperidine (Demerol)
  • Methadone (Dolophine, Methadose)
  • Morphine (Kadian, MS Contin, Morphabond)
  • Oliceridine (Olynvik)
  • Oxycodone (OxyContin OxyContin, Oxaydo)
  • Oxycodone and acetaminophen (Percocet, Roxicet)
  • Oxycodone and naloxone

Opiates are naturally occurring and primarily include opium and heroin.

Opioid/Opiate Detox 101:

Once you begin the opioid/opiate detox process in earnest, you may notice symptoms getting stronger and more severe after the first 24 hours. Some common symptoms include nausea, vomiting, cramping, diarrhea, high blood pressure, rapid heartbeat and chills. Of course, what can sometimes be most difficult in these early hours and days of detox is the actual craving for the drug, which can and often does continue throughout the detox process.

It Gets Easier. Really.

72 hours after the last use is a point at which many experience a bit of relief with a lessening of related symptomatology, with some symptoms completely resolving within a week after the drug was last used. There are numerous factors that influence the detox trajectory for each individual, which include but are not limited to overall physical health, pre-existing conditions, age, severity and length of dependence, and its related use.

This Too, Shall Pass

It can be helpful to remember that while these symptoms can be quite uncomfortable and difficult, they can and they will pass. That said, withdrawal side effects can become dangerous and even life-threatening if not handled correctly. As such, it is of vital importance to undergo the detox process under the supervision of a licensed physician. This ensures that you avoid complications such as dehydration, seizures, excessive vomiting, and aspiration of vomit into the lungs,. It may go without saying but obtaining and maintaining emotional support from friends and family can also alleviate some of the challenges inherent to the detox process.

“How Do I Manage Opioid/Opiate Withdrawal?”

Glad you asked. By now you may be wondering if there are ways to detox from opioids/opiates without experiencing too much pain and discomfort. Several opioid rehab centers – including Positive Recovery – offer a medication-assisted treatment (MAT) program. This provides the our patient with the opportunity to detox in a comfortable setting, and with the aid of doctor-prescribed medications for maximum relief. It is also common for doctors to recommend over-the-counter drugs such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen, anti-diarrheal and anti-nausea medications during the beginning stages of physical detox

Other medications used to treat opioid/opiate withdrawal include Clonidine, Suboxone, and the more commonly known Methadone. Clonidine is a medication that decreases the severity of symptoms by nearly 75%. Suboxone is known to decrease symptoms of withdrawal and is typically administered orally. Methadone is a milder opioid/opiate medication, with dosage being decreased over time to alleviate withdrawal symptoms, until it is eventually halted. Methadone is best managed with a medical professional as it too can be addictive.

Longer Term Symptoms

While the difficult physical symptoms of withdrawal tend to dissipate relatively quickly, some psychological side effects can last for several months. Anxiety, depression, sleep disturbances, and feeling irritable are all common experiences for those who have undergone opioid/opiate detox. It can be helpful to understand detox in stages that extend beyond the physical symptoms, and to practice self-compassion and grace with yourself. Managing ongoing symptoms with medication, therapy and self-care techniques can make a huge difference and prevent relapse.

Medical Detox for Opioids/Opiates at Positive Recovery

Our safe, medically-monitored detox treatment is provided under the care of our Medical Director or attending physician. Our detox programs usually last three to five days, although this varies on a case-by-case basis. Nursing care is provided 24/7 and our experienced staff will work diligently to support you during detox. You will be seen daily by a doctor or nurse practitioner and our counseling staff will conduct brief individual sessions. Once you are physically able, our staff will also guide you in completing some recovery work and assignments. We will also provide recommended options for your next level of care based on your current progress and treatment needs. Read more about our Medical Detox Program here.

If you or someone you love is grappling with addiction and is in need of medical drug or alcohol detox and addiction treatment, call Positive Recovery Centers at 713-904-4699. We are detox experts, we are here to help, and our treatment teams are committed to the ongoing health and safety of all our patients.

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