On This Page:
- What Types of Drug Addictions Can Be Addressed Through Opiate Detox?
- How Long Does It Take to Complete?
- What Symptoms Are Common?
- Is Opiate Detox Dangerous?
- Where Does It Take Place?
- Why Is Opiate Detox an Important First Step?
- What Is a Natural Opiate Detox?
- What Is a Medical Opiate Detox?
- Do All Drug Treatment Programs Offer Detox?
- Is Detox Alone a Cure for Addiction?
- Help for Opiate Addiction
Opiate detoxification, or detox, is the first step an addicted person will need to take on the road to recovery from addiction. Enrolling in a detox program can be frightening, however, especially for people who can’t even remember what it might be like to go a few hours, let alone a few days, without the drugs they are accustomed to taking. However, being prepared for the process may help ease some fears and keep a positive outlook.
What Types of Drug Addictions Can Be Addressed Through Opiate Detox?
When people think about opiates, they often think about heroin. This powerful, illegal and highly addictive drug has been available on the streets for decades, and much of what experts know about opiate detox has come about through studies from people with a heroin addiction.
Many common prescriptions are also opiates, including the following:
According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, opioid abuse is a growing problem in the country, and in 2016, 116 people died every day from an opioid overdose.1 By seeking treatment early, more lives can be saved from unintentional deaths from these drugs.
How Long Does It Take to Complete?
The length of time a person can expect to spend in active detox can vary, depending on the amount of the drug a person was taking and how long they had been taking it. Some people can get through the entire process in just a few days, while others might experience symptoms for a longer period of time. In general, when a person feels calm, relaxed and free of intense physical distress, the process is considered complete, and treatment can begin.
What Symptoms Are Common?
During detox, the body is adjusting to the lack of opiates and learning how to function normally without the drugs. Many people experience physical changes because their bodies are used to operating with a chemical imbalance.
Reversing these changes can cause unpleasant withdrawal symptoms including the following:
- Nausea or vomiting
- Diarrhea or abdominal cramping
- Shaking hands
- Watery eyes
- Jerking or cramping muscles
- Cold flashes
Many people also experience psychological symptoms like depression and anxiety during withdrawal. However, symptoms generally subside in a relatively short period of time.
Is Opiate Detox Dangerous?
People who are in poor health may have difficulty moving through opiate detox without serious medical interventions, but for most people, opiate detox is not life-threatening. Although some facilities may offer a rapid-detox regimen under full-anesthesia, there are great risks associated with this process. Withdrawal may be uncomfortable, but it is a healthy process of riding your body of drugs. If you choose to withdraw under medical care, there are interventions available to help keep you comfortable.
Where Does It Take Place?
At its core, detox is a natural process. The body can use existing systems to process drugs and recalibrate in order to function without drugs. Some people choose to go through detox at home and prepare by stocking up on specific supplies or asking their family members to help. However, many choose to enroll in a detox program with consulting physicians in a rehab center, hospital or drug treatment center. These facilities may have specific programs that people can easily enroll in and have peace of mind that they will stay safe and cared for and also have medical interventions available to them to help ease the process.
Why Is Opiate Detox an Important First Step?
Recovering from a drug addiction is hard work, and therapy is one of the best ways to retrain the brain to handle drug cravings without actually using drugs. People who are still using opiates will be too impaired to do the hard work of addiction therapy. In addition, many addiction treatment programs require their clients to go through detox before they can enroll in care as a commitment to healing from their addiction.
What Is a Natural Opiate Detox?
People who talk about using a “cold-turkey method” to recover from their addictions are discussing a natural opiate detox. The body’s natural systems are allowed to take over, and the person spends a few days in discomfort as the process moves forward.
Some natural, home remedies to manage withdrawal symptoms include the following:
- Cool baths or hot showers
- Mild foods
- Dark, quiet rooms
- Frequent changes of clothing
What Is a Medical Opiate Detox?
Medical detox is different from natural detox at home in that you enter a facility for the entire detox process. Here, people are monitored on a regular basis by consulting physicians for symptoms of withdrawal and discomfort. The medical staff has several prescription medications available to them—like methadone, clonidine, naltrexone, and buprenorphine—that are safer than other opioids and a good replacement option for those healing from addiction. These drugs may be tapered throughout the process. However, some may be used as maintenance medications long-term to help prevent relapse. Other holistic interventions may also be used in combination with replacement medications to help patients stay calm and fight withdrawal symptoms.2
Do All Drug Treatment Programs Offer Detox?
Since detox programs require professional medical staff and not just mental health professionals, not all treatment programs for addiction offer these services. Some programs are staffed by people who are capable of providing counseling and mental health support for people as they move forward from addiction, but these professionals might not be allowed to prescribe medications or step in when a medical emergency takes place. Most of these facilities might require their clients to go through detox before they arrive on the grounds for care.
Is Detox Alone a Cure for Addiction?
As mentioned, detox is considered an important step on the road to recovery from an addiction, but it’s just the first step in a person’s treatment journey. Primarily through talk therapy, patients will learn more about the habits that allowed the addiction to form, and they’ll need to develop relapse prevention skills as they prepare to re-enter their normal lives.
Help for Opiate Addiction
If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction to opiate drugs, we want to help you through your healing process. At Michael’s House, we provide customized treatment programs for opiate addiction, and thanks to consulting physicians, we’re capable of providing medically supervised detox services to our clients. Please call us at our 24-hour, toll-free helpline at 760-548-4032 to find out more from our admissions coordinators or to get the enrollment process started.
1 “About the U.S. Opioid Epidemic.” US Department of Health and Human Service. Accessed 24 February 2018.
2 “Opiate and Opioid Withdrawal.” MedlinePlus. 20 April 2016.