Substance Use

The Ins and Outs of Opiate Detox

TABLE OF CONTENTSTable of Contents

white pills and two syringes filled with brown liquid

When ingested, opioids incite feelings of intense pleasure and relaxation by stimulating receptors in the brain. Whether prescription medication or recreational drugs, this makes opiates highly addicting and, therefore, difficult to stop using.

For those who become addicted, this dopamine slowly loses its ability to release itself in the absence of the drug—because of this, halting the use of opioids even for a little bit can cause an individual suffering from addiction to experience withdrawal symptoms almost immediately.

Opioid Withdrawal

Although there are many different kinds of opiates, withdrawal is generally similar across the board in terms of symptoms. The main difference is when exactly withdrawal symptoms will begin and how long they will last. Heroin withdrawal usually starts 8–12 hours post-ingestion and lasts up to a week, whereas Buprenorphine/Naltrexone withdrawal usually begins about 36 to 48 hours post-ingestion and can last around three weeks.

However, these symptoms’ severity and duration also depend on how long the individual used and how much, on average, they ingested daily. Overall, severe opiate withdrawal can last from one to three weeks, and some symptoms can also pop back up irregularly.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the most common signs and symptoms of opioid withdrawal are as follows:

  • Quickened pulse
  • High blood pressure
  • High body temperature
  • Insomnia
  • Enlarged pupils
  • Heightened reflexes
  • Sweating
  • Gooseflesh
  • Increased respiratory rate
  • Teary eyes
  • Yawning
  • Runny nose
  • Muscle spasms
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Bone and muscle pain
  • Anxiety

Although none of these signs or symptoms are life-threatening in general, it is important to note that, without proper medical supervision, they will increase in severity throughout withdrawal. Those who suffer from conditions such as cardiac issues, infection, anxiety disorders, and generally anything involving pain are likely to also experience an intensification in those symptoms.

Therefore, it is essential that users, especially those suffering from extreme opioid addiction for an extended period, seek medical detoxification treatment either in an inpatient or outpatient program. This way, withdrawal can be appropriately managed with or without medication under the guidance of a trained professional.

Opioid Detoxification Treatment

Medical opioid detoxification is the recommended treatment for anyone seeking to withdraw. While individuals can withdraw successfully without the supervision of a professional, those who suffer from the most severe opioid addictions will find their detoxification process more efficient in an inpatient or outpatient setting. Rather than allowing individuals to quit through the “cold turkey” method, most participants in medical detoxification will slowly withdraw with the help of a tapering method.

With the tapering method, doctors create a plan for their patients to slowly reduce the amount of opiate they consume until they are no longer reliant on it. By slowing the withdrawal process, there is less chance for severe consequences—rapidly quitting can increase withdrawal symptoms and make the detoxification process much more painful.

Often, detoxification programs manage withdrawal by using small doses of approved medications to mitigate symptoms and ease the process. Many approved medications, such as Buprenorphine/Naltrexone, are only allowed to be used in specific licensed programs where withdrawal symptoms are more serious or require hospitalization. The administration of these medications is another reason why seeking professional oversight during detoxification is important—access to these medications is restricted. They are best used when a doctor is present to prescribe an appropriate dose and oversee any possible signs of relapse or complication.

Whether or not detoxification takes place in an inpatient or outpatient setting, it is important to remember that detox itself is absolutely not the only form of treatment that individuals suffering from addiction should participate in. Detoxification is only the first and most important step in a long process that includes psychological and behavioral therapy to tackle the mental root of addiction, not just its physical aspect.

Regardless of what your circumstances are today, Zinnia Healing can set you up for a brighter tomorrow. Are you interested in learning more about recovery and how it works? Reach out to us today.