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What is Opiate Detox?

Opiate detox is a type of drug detoxification that helps to clear opioids from your system. When someone is addicted to opiates, quitting them abruptly can cause the body to experience a shock. The result is opioid withdrawal symptoms that are very difficult to get through. Some symptoms can even be dangerous and potentially lead to medical complications. There are different types of opiate detox that are used to rid the body of toxins.

Medical detox is one method that is frequently used. Patients may be tapered off their opiate drugs slowly. Sometimes, alternate drugs are given, such as Suboxone or Methadone. These help with cravings, and other withdrawal symptoms.

Holistic detox is another method that is becoming more popular. This type of detox may involve a slow taper of opioids as well. However, there are no additional medications given to patients. Instead, diet and exercise are used to rid the body of toxins quickly.

Regardless of which method is right for you, supervised detox from opiates is so important. It will help you stop using safely.

What are the Typical Opioid Withdrawal Symptoms?

Opioid withdrawal symptoms can become quite severe for many people. They are most severe for those who choose to quit using opioids on their own.

Some people may experience a range of other symptoms as well. According to Mental Health Daily, opioid withdrawal may also cause the following symptoms:

  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Concentration problems
  • Cravings
  • Crying spells
  • Depression
  • Diarrhea
  • Dilated Pupils
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Goose bumps
  • Headaches
  • Heart palpitations
  • High blood pressure
  • Hot flashes
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Itchiness
  • Memory problems
  • Muscle aches
  • Nausea
  • Panic attacks
  • Paranoia
  • Runny nose
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Sweating
  • Vomiting
  • Watery Eyes
  • Yawning 

The Opioid Withdrawal Timeline

When you stop taking opiates, you will probably start experiencing mild withdrawal symptoms. This can happen fairly quickly.

Short-acting opioid drugs (like heroin, fentanyl, morphine, Vicodin, Dilaudid, Percocet) may yield mild withdrawal within 6 to 12 hours.

Longer acting opioid drugs (like methadone; extended-release versions of morphine, oxycodone, oxymorphone, hydromorphone, fentanyl, or buprenorphine) may take as long as 30 hours for withdrawal to start. This is the first phase of opiate withdrawal. These symptoms tend to get much worse before they get better.

Within the first 72 hours, more severe symptoms may start. This is known as the second phase of withdrawal. These symptoms will increase in severity and should peak at around the third day. After that, withdrawal symptoms will still be present. However, they will start to decrease in severity.

And around the 7th to 10th day, most symptoms will taper off entirely.

It’s worth repeating that not everyone’s detox will be exactly the same length. And in many cases, it’s incredibly difficult (if not impossible) to predict precisely how long the process will take for an individual.

That being said, below is a simple opioid withdrawal timeline to help recovering opioid addicts know just what to expect, and when to expect it.

Phase 1 (about 3 days) – This stage begins 6-12 hours (short-acting opioids) or as much as 30 hours (long-acting opioids) after the last dose. According to MedlinePlus, the first phase includes symptoms such as:

  • Very low energy
  • Muscle aches throughout the body
  • Feelings of agitation and anxiety
  • Mild to moderate anxiety
  • A runny nose and teary eyes
  • Feeling very fatigued and sleepy

Phase 2 (about 4 to 7 days) – This stage usually begins around the third day of withdrawal. The second phase may include all of the above symptoms, plus additional ones. During the second phase, you may experience:

  • Dilated pupils
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Stomach pain or cramps
  • Digestive issues, such as diarrhea
  • Goosebumps all over the body 

What Is Protracted Withdrawal?

After detoxification, many recovering addicts feel relief from the most intense symptoms of opioid withdrawal. Nausea and diarrhea disappear, the depression and anxiety disappear, and they can then get on to the hard work of rehabilitation.

But others may continue to feel less intense versions of these symptoms for weeks, months, and even years afterwards.

Sleep disturbances, emotional instability, poor executive control, and a worsened stress response can plague recovering users day after day, even once rehabilitation is long over.

This is what’s known as “protracted withdrawal.”

Also known as Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome or PAWS, this condition is marked by especially long-lasting withdrawal symptoms. Usually, these symptoms are more psychological in nature (i.e., mood disorders, insomnia, anhedonia, etc.).

But even still, they can end up being so severe that it can make recovery an even more difficult process than it already is.

The problem with protracted withdrawal, however, is that it isn’t a heavily studied phenomenon. And consequently, some addiction facilities either don’t recognize the condition or aren’t able to treat it effectively if they do.

This, of course, can cause patients suffering from protracted withdrawal to turn back to using again as a form of relief, thus restarting the cycle of addiction.

As with other problems, though, the key is in education. The more patients and support providers understand this condition, the better they'll be able to both identify and treat the resulting symptoms. And that's a recipe for a more successful recovery.    

Just like regular withdrawal, not everyone will experience the same symptoms during protracted withdrawal. Severity of addiction, individual metabolism and body type, and a number of other factors all still come into play.

That being said, there are a few symptoms that are more common than others according to SAMHSA. For all types of protracted withdrawal (alcohol, opioids, cocaine, etc.) these include:

  • Anxiety
  • Sleep difficulties
  • Problems with short-term memory
  • Persistent fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating and making decisions
  • Alcohol or drug cravings
  • Impaired executive control
  • Anhedonia
  • Difficulty focusing on tasks
  • Dysphoria or depression
  • Irritability
  • Unexplained physical complaints
  • Reduced interest in sex

For opioids specifically, clinical studies have noted a couple of common symptoms. These include:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Fatigue
  • Dysphoria
  • Irritability
  • Impaired focus
  • Impaired executive control

One of the most troublesome parts of protracted withdrawal is just how long this condition can last. For alcohol, for instance, some patients may continue to experience symptoms for 2 years or longer according to SAMHSA. Sleep abnormalities can also last for 1 to 3 years too.

And while there isn’t much research on the subject today, protracted opioid withdrawal has been documented to last weeks or even months after the acute symptoms have passed.

Unfortunately, since protracted withdrawal still isn’t that well-understood, there are no hard and fast rules for treating it yet. This can be problematic for a couple of reasons.

First, it might discourage some professional programs from addressing the issue altogether. Without clear guidelines for treating a condition, they may be reluctant to bring up protracted withdrawal at all.

And second, some programs may use treatment strategies that are not effective at all. This can lead to unreasonable expectations and dashed hopes when these treatments fail. This, of course, can make the likelihood of relapse even higher.

Ultimately, though, the solution to protracted withdrawal is simply time. Time to let both the body and mind readjust to life without opioids and time to get used to a sober existence.

However, SAMHSA does outline a number of suggested guidelines that may help patients push through 

  • Educate clients about protracted withdrawal and help them develop realistic attitudes toward recovery.
  • Celebrate each accomplishment.
  • Assess for co-occurring disorders.
  • Ask about sleep problems.
  • Advise clients to be active.
  • Advise clients to be patient.
  • Prescribe medications as needed to control symptoms past the acute withdrawal stage.
  • Encourage clients to join mutual support groups
  • Include interventions that help clients strengthen executive control functions.
  • Monitor clients for symptoms during continuing care.

A professional program that’s educated in handling protracted withdrawal will be able to provide these treatments and make it much easier for patients to recover. 

Is Opioid Withdrawal Deadly?

In short, yes. But it might not be in the way that you think.

When it comes to withdrawal syndromes, many people agree that opioids have one of the worst. The discomfort can be incredibly intense, and it affects both the mind and the body. However, the symptoms are not directly fatal as with other drugs.  

Withdrawing from alcohol or benzodiazepine addiction, for instance, can cause life-threatening seizures. Symptoms of opioid withdrawal, on the other hand, aren't deadly in their own right.

Unfortunately, this fact has led many to falsely believe that people can’t die from going through opioid withdrawal. The truth of the matter is that while these symptoms aren’t necessarily deadly on their own, they can (and often do) lead to a host of health complications that can put the life of a recovering addict at risk.

Added to that, opioid abusers in particular are at an incredibly high risk of fatally overdosing after relapsing too.

As a result, going through opioid withdrawal without the help of a professional program can end up being a deadly decision.

Possible Complications of Opioid Withdrawal

One of the biggest and most hidden threats during opioid withdrawal is the risk of suffering from health complications along the way. And the list of possible complications and their deadly effects is long when it comes to opioid detox.

At the top of the list in terms of danger and frequency is dehydration. Every part of our bodies needs water to function normally. Our organs, our blood, our flesh, our brain – and even the individual cells that make up these parts – all require water to work properly.

And when it doesn’t get enough water, vital functions like thinking, breathing, and pumping blood can all suffer.

The danger of dehydration during detox (especially opioid detox) is very real. That’s because two withdrawal symptoms in particular – vomiting and diarrhea – are both incredibly common during this stage of recovery. And when left untreated, both of these can very quickly lead to dehydration.

And that can easily lead to a cascade of other deadly complications, including:

  • Heat injury
  • Urinary and kidney problems
  • Seizures
  • Low blood volume shock
  • Coma

Malnutrition can be quite common during opioid withdrawal for two big reasons. First, vomiting and diarrhea can make it hard for your body to absorb the nutrients in food. And second, many addicts of all kinds struggle with proper nutrition. Similar to other aspects of their lives, many choose to indulge in getting high rather than eating properly and taking care of their bodies.

One problematic complication of malnutrition during opioid withdrawal is the impact it can have on the immune system. This is especially concerning for people who have been infected with HIV or Hepatitis, two common diseases that can rapidly spread among opioid abusers.

There are other complications that can result from malnutrition as well. These include:

  • Intractable vomiting
  • High fever
  • Respiratory tract infections
  • Convulsions
  • Dehydration
  • Hypothermia

Under the right conditions and without proper treatment, these complications can end up being quite deadly.

Some symptoms that many opioid users report during detoxification have to do with heart palpitations (irregular heartbeat) and higher blood pressure. When these symptoms are mild, they don’t pose too much of a threat to the health of the individual. But when they’re more severe, they can be quite troublesome.

Both irregular heartbeats and an acutely high blood pressure can cause serious damage to both blood vessels and the heart itself. And as a result, it can make a heart attack or stroke much more likely.

So even though opioid withdrawal may not directly cause a stroke or cardiac event, it can still set the stage for both to occur.

Perhaps the most gruesome of the complications, choking is also a very real threat during opioid withdrawal. This is due entirely to the fact that vomiting can be so frequent during detox that it becomes uncontrollable. And without proper supervision, some patients can even end up choking on their own vomit as they attempt to get clean.

In milder addictions, this isn’t as much of a problem. But when heavy opioid users try to quit on their own, they may be so overwhelmed by the other symptoms that they find it hard to even help themselves while choking.

That’s why it’s absolutely critical that anyone attempting to go through opioid detox only do so under the supervision of a qualified medical professional.

In the same vein as the previous complication is aspiration. This condition occurs when a patient accidentally inhales their own vomit or other substances like food. Once that substance gets into the lungs, it can cause a number of dangerous infections that can both spread to the rest of the body and even kill the victim if left untreated.

Aspiration pneumonia, for example, can lead to lung abscesses or permanent scarring. In the most severe cases, it can also lead to acute respiratory failure and, eventually, death.

Up until now, we’ve only discussed the physical side of opioid withdrawal complications. And while these can often be the most recognizable and treatable, the mental complications can end up being just as deadly.

During opioid withdrawal, anxiety, depression, and irritability are incredibly common. And for some people, they can lead to patients committing suicide.

This is especially concerning here because opioid users are at an extremely high risk of developing suicidal thoughts. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, opioid addicts are more than 5 times more likely to commit suicide compared to the general population. Other studies suggest that the risk is as much as 13 times higher than non-opioid users.

And when an already at-risk population like this is also stricken with mental withdrawals like depression and anxiety, the danger of suicide is even higher.

Why Is Opioid Overdose Such A Threat During Detox?

The complications surrounding opioid withdrawal can be deadly – that much is clear. But there’s one other enormous danger that plagues many people trying to get clean from opioids. And that’s relapse.

On its own, relapse can be both frustrating and disheartening. After weeks, months, or even years of hard work, turning back to drugs can feel like a failure and a waste of so much time and effort. However, relapse doesn’t always signal a complete return to using. And in fact, the more dangerous part of relapsing for opioid users is the threat of a fatal overdose.

To explain, opioids are notorious for building up tolerance incredibly quickly among users. They’ve even been shown to create physical tolerance just hours after using a heavy dose (a condition called tachyphylaxis).

However, opioid tolerance also drops surprisingly quickly after quitting. And that can make returning to using again quite dangerous.

Imagine a heavy opioid user is checking into a detox program. She’s been on these drugs for nearly a decade. And while she may have started by abusing prescription painkillers after a high school injury, she soon moved on to heroin since it was cheaper and easier to find.

After several run-ins with the law, a dozen lost jobs, and the complete alienation from her friends and family that loved her so much, she finally decides she needs to get clean. And after doing a bit of research, she finds a detoxification program that caters specifically to her needs.

Things go well at first, and she’s able to push through the withdrawals with the help of the professional facility. And after moving on to rehab, she’s feeling more and more confident that she can kick her heroin habit for good and start life anew.

However, after two weeks of complete abstinence, she experiences an unexpected trigger and is overwhelmed by the extreme cravings that result. In an instant of poor judgment, she scores some heroin and loads up the same amount she was so used to getting high on not long ago.

But while that same dose may have been “perfect” back then, her body’s tolerance has dropped dramatically in the past two weeks. And as a result, her respiratory system is almost immediately launched into complete failure just minutes after plunging the needle into her vein. She overdoses, and is declared dead within hours.

Though this brutal scene was constructed to communicate a point, it’s the sad reality of countless opioid users. So many addicts trying to get clean end up succumbing to their impulses not long after detoxing. Without proper education and preparation, they don’t consider their lower tolerance. And sadly, many end up dying as a result.

How Can A Professional Opioid Detox Program Help?

As you can see attempting to detox from an opioid addiction can be dangerous. The list of potentially damaging complications is long. And the risk of overdosing after relapsing is especially high with these drugs.

So while the symptoms of opioid withdrawal may not be directly fatal, detoxing irresponsibly can still be deadly.

That’s why it’s so important to partner with a professional opioid detox program rather than trying to push through it alone. These programs are created specifically to help make the transition to sobriety as easy and quick as possible. And that can make a complete recovery far more likely.

There are three ways in particular that a professional program helps during detox: they can provide specialized medications to ease withdrawals; they can prevent and treat dangerous complications; and they make relapse far less likely.

Medications to Help with Opioid Withdrawal

Most detoxification programs provide at least some level of medicated treatment when it comes to opioid withdrawal. In general, these medications can be broken down into Opioid Replacement Therapies (ORTs), opioid antagonists, and symptom-specific medications.

Opiate withdrawal

Opioid Replacement Therapies or ORTs help ease withdrawals and cravings by directly stimulating the same cell receptors other opioids use to create the addictive high. Drugs that activate these cells are called “opioid agonists.”

However, these ORTs are far less powerful and are much easier to control. When used properly, they actually don’t create any of the euphoric effects that opioid users are chasing. Instead, they activate receptors just enough to keep withdrawals from popping up – or make them less severe.  

There are two main ORTs in use today: methadone and buprenorphine.

Methadone was the go-to ORT for decades. It was typically administered through a small liquid dose that patients would take once or several times a day at specialized facilities. It also kept opioid receptors blocked, meaning that if a user relapsed, they wouldn’t be able to feel the euphoria that they were seeking.

And while it helped many opioid addicts get clean, it’s addictive potential meant that patients could only take it at a specific facility.

Buprenorphine (marketed as Suboxone, Subutex, and Sublocade) is starting to take methadone’s place as the ORT of choice. Like methadone, it activates opioid receptors to a small degree to reduce the severity of withdrawals. But unlike methadone, it can be prescribed at a physician’s office and taken in the comfort of one’s own home.

Buprenorphine is also harder to abuse than methadone. Many buprenorphine products contain compounds that create extremely unpleasant effects when injected. And it also has a ceiling effect, meaning taking more and more of the drug won’t increase its effects.

Like methadone though, patients have found ways to abuse and become addicted to this powerful drug.

While buprenorphine and methadone are opioid agonists, naltrexone is what’s known as an opioid antagonist. Essentially, that means it latches on to opioid cell receptors too. But rather than activating them, they simply block other opioids from activating them.

Think of opioid receptors as the lock and agonists as the key. And antagonists come in and cover the keyhole entirely.

Naltrexone is one of these antagonists. And in the world of opioid addiction treatment, it’s a rising start that’s been shown to be incredibly effective at preventing relapse.

Patients using naltrexone take a small pill (or are injected once a month as with Vivitrol) and experience a noticeable reduction in cravings (benefit #1). But most notably is the fact that if patients taking naltrexone do end up relapsing, they won’t experience any of the high from the drug (benefit #2).

This plays a major role in eliminating the urge to use again, and can be incredibly useful for promoting long-term sobriety.

In fact, naltrexone treatment is so successful that recent studies have even found it to be just as effective as Suboxone (a buprenorphine medication) in preventing relapse.

And finally, while ORTs do have at least some addictive potential, naltrexone has none. It creates no high, leads to no dependency, and as a result, is widely considered to be a less risky way to stay clean.

Last but certainly not least, many opioid detox programs will also employ the use of a range of other medications, both prescription and over-the-counter. These meds are used to treat specific symptoms of opioid withdrawal and are not opioid agonists (ORTs) or antagonists (naltrexone).

Some of the most common include:

Prescription

Over-The-Counter

  • Imodium
  • Dramamine
  • Benadryl
  • Tylenol and ibuprofen
  • Sleep aids
  • Supplements like l-tyrosine, zinc, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, copper, and vitamin B6

Managing Health Risks During Detox

Detoxification can be an incredibly dangerous process without the right kind of help. As we’ve seen, there are numerous complications and overdosing during relapse is both common and deadly when it comes to opioids.

Managing these health risks, then, is absolutely crucial during detox. And the best way of doing so is by partnering with a professional facility.

A quality opioid detox facility will employ several life-saving strategies to make sure patients are both healthy and safe throughout the program.

First, many will have qualified and licensed physicians on-hand. These physicians are often experts in the field and have extensive knowledge of how to both prevent and treat any dangerous complications.

Second, these facilities also often have 24/7 nursing staff. If a patient does begin experiencing any dangerous symptoms, the staff will be able to detect and treat these conditions much more quickly than if the patient tried detoxing at home.

And finally, these facilities also have access to life-saving medications and technology. In addition to equipment like health monitors and automatic external defibrillators (AEDs), many are also equipped with a powerful drug called naloxone.

Not to be confused with naltrexone, naloxone is effectively an opioid overdose antidote. It can almost instantaneously reverse the deadly effects of an opioid antidote and is easily administered. If a patient does overdose during a detox program then, a professional facility will have the medications on-hand needed to save their life.

Increasing the Rate of Recovery

A professional detox facility will also increase the chances of a full recovery. By employing evidence-based treatments, combining it with counseling and other services, and providing a well-thought-out recovery plan, patients starting out their journey to sobriety here are far more likely to stay sober longer.

Also worth mentioning, of course, is the fact that a higher recovery rate reduces the chance of overdosing. And as we’ve seen, overdosing while in opioid detox can be especially deadly.

Partnering with a professional addiction facility, then, is both the best way of ensuring the best odds of recovering and of preventing a potentially fatal overdose after relapsing.

Additional Opioid Detox Questions:

It's really not easy to predict how long you will be in opioid detox. Every individual's situation is different. Usually, the length of time spent in opiate detox depends on a few different factors. These might include:

  • How long you have had an opiate addiction.
  • The type(s) of opiate drugs you have been using.
  • How often you use opiates.
  • The rate that your body metabolizes the drug.
  • Whether or not other addictions are present, such as alcoholism.

Most people can expect to be in opioid detox between a week and ten days. Of course, there may be some who need less time, and some who need more time.

In the grand scheme of your opioid treatment, detox will be a very short (but critical) part of it. Even so, it is an important step that you should not skip.

Once opiate withdrawal begins, most people are the most concerned with when it will end. This might be a concern of yours as well. The length of time that opiate withdrawal lasts is very personal. It's based on several factors, most of which are listed above.

Your personal addiction history plays a key role in how long opioid withdrawal is going to last for you. If you are someone who has been through withdrawal before, it may last longer. Also, your body might not be in the best health when you stop taking opiates. If that is the case, it can take much longer for you to process them out of your system.

It's hard to say how long opioid withdrawal will take to subside. However, it can be helpful to know what the typical opioid withdrawal timeline looks like.

Being addicted to multiple drugs at once (a.k.a. polydrug addiction, a type of co-occurring disorder) can make detox much more complicated. And ultimately, whether or not it will take longer depends entirely on the individual circumstance.

Some drugs like benzodiazepines can take several weeks to detox from. Others like cocaine may take around the same amount of time as opioids.

So in the end, it might make detox take much longer if you’re using other drugs simultaneously.

What is certain about polydrug addiction is that its detoxification can be exponentially more dangerous. Withdrawal symptoms may overlap and exacerbate each other, complications are far more complex, and the specific health risks may end up being more life-threatening than with opioids alone.

It’s incredibly important, then, that anyone suffering from polydrug addiction should only attempt detoxification with the help of a professional program. Only the addiction professionals here will fully understand the risks involved and will be prepared for any adverse outcomes that arise. 

Tips for Getting Through Opioid Detox

Opioid withdrawal can be a grueling experience. And getting through it without losing your mind can be tough. But with the right expectations and preparation, it can become much easier.

Below are a few tips on tackling the worst parts of opioid detoxification.

The worst withdrawal syndromes come from the abrupt stopping of drugs. In some cases (like with heroin or other illegal opioids) this is completely necessary. With some legal opioids, though, the trick may be to taper doses down gradually rather than stop taking the drug altogether. This gives the body time to readjust to functioning without the help of the drug in question.

With illicit opioids, the key may be taking opioid replacement therapies or ORTs. These drugs partially stimulate the opioid receptors in the brain and body so as to cut down on the severity of the symptoms. Over time, they can be weaned off of entirely with adequate support. Some of the most common include buprenorphine and methadone.

Due to the physical withdrawals which are so often overwhelming, many people forget to pay attention to the mental side of opioid detoxification. And although the symptoms may not be as readily apparent as nausea, diarrhea, and muscle aches, the depression, anxiety, and irritability that often occur can be just as troublesome.

While specific medications can certainly help here, the best detox programs will also include counseling sessions to help address the psychological opioid withdrawals. And when patients treat both the physical and mental side of withdrawal, they have a much better chance of staying sober in the long-term.

Similar to the last tip, it’s critical that patients also receive emotional and motivational support throughout their journey to recovery. While feeling alone and disconnected may not be diagnosable like depression or anxiety, multiple studies have shown that being isolated is directly associated with addiction, whether it’s being a cause of addiction or the result of one.

On top of that, researchers have also found that two ingredients in particular were important in predicting the future success of recovery – bonding and support. When recovering addicts feel connected to others as they move through recovery, they’re more likely to stick with the program. They stay motivated because their sobriety is connected to their relationships, not just to themselves.

Building and maintaining a strong social support network, then, is incredibly important for ensuring the best outcomes during opioid detoxification.

Using opioids over and over again can cause a drop in noradrenaline in the brain and the body. But when these drugs are stopped too quickly, that noradrenaline comes back with a vengeance. As a result, anxiety, agitation, and cravings can all hit patients with an overwhelming severity.

Certain medications, though, can help cut down on the nastiest of these side effects. Some of the most effective meds for treating them include clonidine, Xanax, and Klonopin. And with certain detoxification programs, physicians will be able to prescribe these drugs to make pushing through withdrawal much easier.

There are loads of dangerous complications that can pop up during opioid withdrawal. And part of the reason behind that is the fact that so many addicts neglect their health because of their substance abuse.

Not eating enough or not getting nutritious foods, forgetting to exercise, not getting a healthy amount of sleep, and contracting numerous and dangerous diseases are pretty common. And all of this can make withdrawal symptoms even more severe.

Making sure to exercise, eat well, and generally take care of yourself during detox is a great way to make detox significantly easier to get through in one piece. It’s so important, in fact, that some detox facilities rely 100% on holistic methods that take the “whole body” approach to treating drug withdrawal.

And believe it or not, they work surprisingly well too.

Opioid withdrawal is an all-encompassing process. Even mild opioid abusers find that carrying on business as usual after quitting is much more difficult than they originally anticipated. Symptoms like heavy sweating, tremors, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea can make it hard to go to school, show up for work, or even fulfill certain family obligations.

As a result, the overwhelming majority of opioid addicts will want to actually take time off to get through withdrawal. Cancel any appointments. Reschedule get-togethers with friends. And ask another parent to pick up the kids after school. A full and absolute commitment is key to getting the best results out of detox.

You can get back to work as usual AFTER you’re clean.

While detoxing at home is never advised for opioid withdrawal (especially because of the many health complications and risks), addicts attempting to do so should always be accompanied by a friend or an associate.

One reason is that triggers and cravings for a drug can be incredibly overwhelming at times. And that can make it quite hard to refrain from using again.

It’s worth noting that while willpower is an important part of staying clean, it isn’t everything. The brain of an addict physically changes over the course of a substance abuse problem. And studies have shown that areas relating to judgment, behavior control, and decision-making are impacted along the way. In the end, the brain becomes hard-wired for drug seeking. And that means willpower alone is often not enough to prevent relapsing.  

With a friend by your side, though, they can help stop you from relapsing and making a huge mistake.

Another reason for having a friend with you (and this one is critical) is the fact that opioid detox can be and often is quite dangerous. If you attempt to take it on by yourself, you may succumb to the many deadly complications that could result. And without anyone there to help, it just may cost you your life.

As with many problems, preparation is vital to making the best of a bad situation. Just as a construction crew plans out every nail beforehand or an investment agency studies the market before making a decision, making detox as smooth as possible takes education on what to expect.

That’s why no matter how mild your addiction is or how much willpower you think you have, it’s vital to understand everything you can about going through drug detox, especially when it comes to opioids. That means taking the time to understand how long it will take, what kinds of symptoms you’ll run into, and how to treat these symptoms can all add up to a more successful recovery.

On top of that, knowing about the risks involved is also critical. So many opioid addicts put themselves in unnecessary danger simply because they don’t understand the many complications and hazards of detoxing on their own. And for some, it ends up costing them their lives.

Partnering with a professional facility is the absolute best way both prevent and treat any dangerous complications that can crop up during detox.

So if you or someone you love is about to attempt opioid detox alone, remember to be smart about it. And check into a professional detox program. It just may save a life.   

What Comes After Opioid Detoxification?

While opioid detoxification is a vital part of anyone’s journey towards recovery, it’s not the only step that matters. This might come as a bit of a shock to some. Unfortunately, a surprising number of people are under the false impression that detox is all an addict needs to recover completely.

However, addiction experts are quick to point out that this is simply not the case. According to the National Institutes on Drug Abuse, “medical detoxification is only the first stage of addiction treatment and by itself does little to change long-term drug use.”

In order to ensure the best odds of a kicking an opioid addiction for good, patients need to commit to two more phases: rehabilitation and aftercare.

While detoxification addresses the physical side of addiction recovery, rehabilitation is more about healing the mind. An opioid use disorder is defined by chronic and compulsive substance abuse behaviors. And in order to eliminate these dangerous behaviors, it takes a bit of work to essentially rewire the brain.

There are several different levels of rehabilitation care. But in general, each accomplishes this rewiring of the brain using three major forms of therapy: 1-on-1 counseling, group talk, and behavioral therapies.

This form of therapy attempts to dive deep into an addict’s personal connection with opioids and their unique situation. One-on-one counseling can help patients identify any underlying co-occurring disorders that can make it hard to recover. It also helps get to the root cause behind an addiction – whether it be emotional trauma, social isolation, physical pain, or any other problem.

With proper counseling, patients can also learn new and healthier life strategies that promote a drug-free lifestyle.

Group talk has long been a core component of effective addiction treatment. That's because group talk sessions offer a variety of benefits that other treatments don't

First, they help create a unique social bond that can be invaluable during recovery. Patients participating in group talk build strong relationships with other people in similar situations. And that can open up doors to new sources of support that can help keep them sober down the line.

Second, group talk sessions help individuals see their personal situation from a whole new perspective. By helping others understand the faults in their behaviors, they learn to better understand their own. Also, by learning how others have tackled their own cravings, addicts can learn about new sobriety strategies that might work for them too.

While 1-on-1 counseling and group talk therapy can help provide the support and emotional connection that is necessary for recovery, behavioral therapy actually provides patients with the real-world techniques needed to stay sober.

These techniques help patients deal with overwhelming opioid cravings (which are common after detoxing) and avoid the many environmental triggers that may cause them.

These include:

Last but not least, the final phase of recovery is continued aftercare. And while many programs don’t focus on this stage as much as detox or rehab, ensuring that patients remain in aftercare programs is critical to maintaining long-term sobriety.

That’s because normal daily life is far different than during a recovery program. Patients in a recovery program are isolated from environmental triggers, social pressure, and day-to-day stresses. But once they re-enter normal life, these new pressures can be especially overwhelming. And many recovering addicts eventually cave to these pressures and return to using again.

An aftercare program, though, can help keep sobriety and recovery at top of mind for opioid addicts. And that can be instrumental in helping them fight off cravings and keeping in touch with social support networks that help them remain drug-free.

There are a number of different aftercare programs available, but three types in particular are 12-step programs, 12-step alternatives, and outpatient programs.

  • 12-Step Programs – One of the best forms of aftercare support comes from 12-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, and Al-Anon. These meetings are free to attend, widely available across the country, and 100% anonymous (which can help with the shame and guilt often associated with addiction).
  • Other Support Groups – 12-step support groups aren’t the only ones available either. Other organizations like SMART Recovery, Sober Organizations for Sobriety, and LifeRing all offer other recovery support options too. And this can be especially helpful for individuals who don’t subscribe to the same beliefs that 12-step programs teach.
  • Outpatient Programs – After leaving an inpatient program, the transition to normal day-to-day life can be particularly tough. For some, attending a high-quality outpatient program during the evenings several times a week can be particularly helpful for remaining sober. These programs offer a similar structure to inpatient programs but are often far more flexible in nature. 
Northpoint the Evergreen

Getting Help During Opioid Detoxification

Opioid detox can be an incredibly tough process to get through on your own. A long list of particularly uncomfortable withdrawals, a host of dangerous complications, and the ever-present threat of a fatal relapse can all add up to a particularly dangerous detoxification process without the right help.

But when you partner with a professional opioid treatment program, you can rest assured that your safety and your successful recovery are in the best of hands. And the Evergreen at Bellevue, Washington is proud to offer one of the best programs in the country.

Our high staff-to-patient ratio, modern yet comfortable facility, and evidence-based and individualized programs provide the absolute best results when it comes to recovering from an opioid addiction. Plus, we’re one of the few nationally accredited programs in the country – a true testament to our dedication to above-and-beyond treatment quality.

Getting through opioid detoxification and recovery can be hard. But with the right help by your side, it is possible. And we can help.

So get in touch today to start your journey to recovery.

Talk to a Rehab Specialist

Our admissions coordinators are here to help you get started with treatment the right way. They'll verify your health insurance, help set up travel arrangements, and make sure your transition into treatment is smooth and hassle-free.

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