Clinical Opiate Detox Protocol Guidelines

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Opiate detox treatment can be one of the most difficult stages in the recovery process. Though opiate withdrawal symptoms have no real life-threatening effects, ensuring recovering addicts successfully complete this treatment stage greatly increases their chances in recovery.

Opiate detox protocols provide treatment professionals with established guidelines for assessing and treating opiate withdrawal. With safety and effectiveness being the overall goals of detox treatment, opiate detox protocol guidelines follow a step-by-step process to determine a person’s individual treatment needs, according to the U. S. National Library of Medicine.

For addicts in recovery, withdrawal symptoms and drug cravings become the two biggest barriers to maintaining ongoing abstinence. For this reason, opiate detox protocol guidelines employ various treatment approaches designed to alleviate withdrawal effects and reduce the severity of drug cravings experienced.

Assessment Tools

detoxing from opiates

A doctor following the detox protocol will discuss your symptoms and addiction with you to assess your situation.

Of all the different types of drug withdrawal (e.g., cocaine withdrawal, amphetamine withdrawal), opiate withdrawal periods are the most predictable in terms of symptom types and severity. That being so, individual circumstances can still cause variations in how an opiate withdrawal period will unfold.

For this reason, opiate detox protocols use assessment tools to better gauge a person’s overall condition and ability to cope with withdrawal effects. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the Clinical Opiate Withdrawal Scale provides a means for determining the severity of a person’s addiction. Information obtained from this tool becomes the basis for determining what types of detox treatment approaches will work best.

Treatment Criteria Guidelines

Opiate detox protocol uses a specific set of treatment criteria to determine what factors pose the greatest risk to a person’s recovery and what factors work in his or her favor. According to the Academy of Managed Care Pharmacy, treatment criteria guidelines consider the following factors:

  • Existing medical conditions
  • Withdrawal potential in terms of severity
  • A person’s willingness/readiness to change
  • Existing psychological disorders
  • History of drug use
  • Relapse potential
  • Presence or absence of a support network

Opiate Detox Protocol Treatment Approaches

Opiate detox protocol guidelines offer different treatment approaches designed to reduce or eliminate withdrawal symptom effects. Treatment providers can choose from three standard approaches depending on a person’s condition:

  • Medication-based replacement therapies, such as methadone and buprenorphine
  • Clonidine medication to help alleviate withdrawal symptoms
  • Clonidine and naltrexone medications to reduce withdrawal symptom severity and block the effects of other opiate drugs (for relapse prevention purposes)

Medication-Based Replacement Therapies

Long-term opiate use leaves brain chemical processes in a state of imbalance, which in turn causes the withdrawal effects experienced during detox. Brain chemical imbalances can be so severe as to make it all but impossible for a person to maintain abstinence during the detox period.

Opiate detox protocol guidelines highly recommend the use of medication-based replacement therapies as treatment for long-term opiate addictions. Medications, such as methadone and buprenorphine, produce the same effects as opiates without creating a high potential for addiction as other opiate-type drugs do. In effect, these drugs help to reduce withdrawal symptom severity as well as the degree of drug cravings a person experiences.

Though commonly used to help recovering addicts make it through the detox stage, these medications can also be prescribed for long-term, maintenance treatment purposes.


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