For most addicts, opiate withdrawal and detox are the two most feared situations of the entire addiction. The phrase opiate detox refers to the process of effectively ridding the body of opiates and the toxins associated to these drugs by abstaining from opiate use and allowing time for withdrawal symptoms to take their course. Despite fear and rumors, opiate detox isn’t always a painful and difficult process but it does take commitment and an openness to change.
People often look for a way out, a way to get sober without having to go through opiate withdrawal. Unfortunately, there is no real way to effectively get sober without effectively ridding the body of opiates which involves opiate detox and the subsequent withdrawal symptoms. Some methods of detox are more comfortable for the recovering addict than others and some are safer than others but the bottom line is—if you are addicted to opiates such as heroin, morphine, Oxycontin or a similar prescription pain medication, you will have to go through a period of detox in order to get sober and remain clean.
Opiate Detox Methods
Various methods of opiate detox exist but they are not all safe. Some home based opiate detox methods are typically very dangers and really should not be tried unless under the direct supervision of a qualified medical profession. Because opiate withdrawals can become severe and life-threatening, it’s important to make sure that detox does not take place without adequate medical supervision. This will ensure the safety of the individual undergoing the detoxification process and can prevent risk of relapse.
Abuse of opiates is linked to an increased risk of drug overdose as well as the increased risk of contracting STDs or other disease that can be transferred intravenously through the sharing of dirty needles. Several methods exist for opiate detox which can reduce the risk of disease transmission and prevent opiate related overdose or potentially fatal consequences from occurring.
The most common methods of opiate detox are:
- Medication replacement therapy
- Opiate Antagonists
- Ultra Rapid Detox
- Tapering Off
Each method of detox has its benefits but they all have their downfalls too. For instance, medication replacement therapy such as the use of methadone maintenance treatment can be highly effective at reducing the risk of withdrawal symptoms while helping an individual to effectively stop using opiates such as heroin or morphine but this method of treatment also results in a subsequent addiction to an opioid (methadone). Likewise, ultra rapid detox is said to reduce the length of time that it takes to detox from opiates and takes place under general anesthesia so the patient doesn’t feel the withdrawals but because it places the patient under a medically induced comatose state there are risks of brain damage and other complications occurring.
Opiate Detox Timeline
People who are ready to do what it takes to overcome opiate addiction and get past the withdrawal symptoms mostly wonder what the opiate detoxification process will be like and how long it will take. Everyone is different but typically, there is a timeline by which most people will feel certain symptoms of withdrawal and subsequently, stop feeling certain symptoms as well.
The body does not become physically dependent on opiates overnight. Likewise, detox will not take place overnight either. Opiate detox can take days or even weeks to complete depending on the severity of the addiction and various other factors. The first symptoms of withdrawal typically appear within about 12 hours of the last exposure to opiates.
These symptoms may include:
- Abdominal cramps
- Goose bumps
- Dilated pupils
- Bone & joint pain
Many people fear the process of detox and refuse to ever seek proper treatment for an opiate addiction simple due to their fear of what the withdrawal process will be like. They don’t want to endure the pain associated with withdrawal and therefore, they avoid treatment all together. Many try to quit on their own, at home, without professional medical care or medications and quickly find that the withdrawal process is simply too much for them to handle—thus they resort back to using heroin, morphine, prescription painkillers or their opiate of choice.
How Long Does it Take?
The process of completely detoxifying from opiates can take anywhere from about 5 to 10 days but this can be extended depending on the method of detoxification that is used, the severity of the addiction and various other factors. Using opiate-replacement medications can extend the length of time that opiate detox takes but it can greatly reduce the impact of withdrawal symptoms making the process less difficult for the patient.
Typically, the first couple of weeks are the worst when it comes to opiate detox. As time goes on, most people feel better and the symptoms tend to become more bearable. Most people report that they continue to feel some symptoms of withdrawal during the first full month of detox and that these symptoms become easier to cope with during the second and subsequent months with proper treatment and care.
The length of time that it takes you to detoxify from an opiate will depend on the type of drug that you use and your own individual health. Some people will continue to be affected by their addiction to opiates for many months or even years following the detox—this is just an after effect of the addiction that many recovering addicts must get used to. It’s important to know that detox is only the first stage of recovery and should always be followed with counseling and therapy to prevent relapse.
Opiate Detox Symptoms
The symptoms that users feel during opiate detox result from the body’s physical dependence on the drug and its subsequent reaction to not receiving the drug. These symptoms may be mild to moderate or, if the drug was used for a long time and in large doses, the symptoms of detox could be severe. Some of the most intense withdrawal symptoms can be treated using medications but the user must know that taking medications comes with an increased risk of a subsequent addiction occurring.
Opiate withdrawal symptoms may include:
- Cold flashes
- Bone pain
- Muscle pain
- Joint pain
- Abdominal cramping
- Body pain
- Flu-like symptoms
- Runny nose
- Runny, watery eyes
- Pale skin
- Hot flashes
Dangers of Opiate Detox at Home
Without proper medical care, opiate detox can be a potentially hazardous situation. The dangers of opiate detox at home include risk of relapse, risk of health complications, risk of bodily harm or even death. Quitting opiates is a very difficult process that should not be done alone or without medical monitoring to ensure the absolute safety of the recovering addict. Successful opiate detox will most often take place under the direct supervision of a doctor or treatment professional, often in a residential setting that can ensure prompt medical attention in the event that the symptoms of withdrawal become severe or pose an immediate health risk to the recovering addict.
Medications Used in Opiate Detox
There are several drugs that can be used as part of a relapse prevention strategy and which are often prescribed during opiate detox.
The most common medications include:
Each medications has a minor risk of addiction and could result in overdose if not take correctly so it’s important to discuss the benefits and the risks of taking these medications with your doctor or treatment provider. There are also medications that are commonly prescribed following the detoxification phase to help alleviate the nagging desire to use these drugs. Before starting any type of relapse prevention therapy, detoxification therapy or other method of opiate addiction treatment it’s important to talk openly and honestly with your healthcare provider or a treatment professional to ensure your own safety and medical well-being.