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Opioid Detox

Although the opioid detox process is extremely uncomfortable, it is also short-lived and can be mitigated with medications.

Detox is not a cure for opioid addiction. Instead, detoxification addresses the physical aspect of opioid use disorder. Opioid detox is the pathway to ongoing evidence-based treatment in an inpatient or outpatient setting.

The optimum method of withdrawing from opioid is supervised detoxification at a licensed medical detox center.

Table of Contents

What Is Opioid Withdrawal?

Opioids are typically prescribed for the treatment of moderate to severe pain. If you take opioids, this can bring about various side effects, such as:

  • Relaxation
  • Drowsiness
  • Reduced sensitivity to pain
  • Slowed breathing

In addition to these side effects, taking opioids also delivers a powerful feeling of euphoria. It is this rewarding and pleasurable high that leads many people to abuse opioids. The strong potential for abuse and addiction associated with opioids means the substance is classified as a schedule II controlled substance.

Article at a Glance:

Opioids have a mechanism of action that targets the opioid receptors in your brain and spinal cord, as well as in the gastrointestinal tract. Taking opioids simultaneously relieves pain and triggers euphoria. This occurs when opioids stimulate brain receptors, prompting an increased production of dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter or chemical messenger often associated with positive pleasurable feelings. Most habitual opioid use is predicated on the desire to reexperience the euphoric high induced by opioid-based medications.

The sustained use of opioids, even when used as directed and with a prescription, causes tolerance to form rapidly. When this happens, you become desensitized to the properties of opioids. This causes many people to take more of the medication to achieve the rewarding and pain-relieving effects.

Over time, abusing opioids causes changes to the structure and function of nerve receptors in the brain, leading to altered brain chemistry. Opioid withdrawal symptoms are the physical and psychological response from a system accustomed to the continual presence of opioids.

All types of opioids result in similar withdrawal symptoms presenting during detox. The most common opioid withdrawal symptoms are:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • High blood pressure levels
  • Insomnia
  • Increased body temperature
  • Chills
  • Fever
  • Sweating
  • Accelerated heart rate
  • Muscle and bone pains

Is Opioid Detox Dangerous?

If you decide to withdraw from opioids at home without medical guidance, this can be dangerous and potentially life-threatening.

Fortunately, the risks and complications associated with detoxing from opioids can be almost completely eliminated if you engage with a supervised clinical detox.

How Long Does It Take to Detox from Opioids?

The duration and the onset of opioid withdrawal is contingent on the following variables:

  • Type of opioids.
  • Duration of opioid abuse.
  • Time between opioid doses.
  • Severity of symptoms.

Short-acting opioids like heroin, hydrocodone, and oxycodone provoke withdrawal symptoms shortly after the last dose, peaking on day three of detox, and persisting for a week or so.

Long-acting opioids like morphine and extended-release oxycodone trigger more protracted withdrawal symptoms that also take longer to manifest.

The following factors can all influence what to expect from opioid detox:

  • Physical and mental health.
  • Genetics.
  • Opioid levels in your system.
  • Duration of opioid abuse.
  • Scope of opioid abuse.
  • Type of detox (clinical or home detox)

Opioid Detox Timeline

Most opioid withdrawal symptoms present from 8 to 36 hours after the last use of opioids.

In most cases, opioid detox takes from 4 to 10 days. In severe cases of opioid use disorder, withdrawal symptoms may linger for several weeks.

Here is a standard timeline for opioid detox:

Opioid detox: day 1

With short-acting opioids like heroin, codeine, and fentanyl, withdrawal symptoms usually present 8 to 24 hours after the last use of opioids. Immediate symptoms include:

  • Aggression
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Cravings
  • Headaches
  • Muscle pains
  • Loss of appetite
  • Insomnia

Opioid detox: day 2

With long-acting opioids such as oxycodone tablets in extended-release form, withdrawal symptoms manifest from 24 to 48 hours after the last use of opioids. As well as the above symptoms, you may experience:

  • Runny nose
  • Excessive sweating
  • Upset stomach
  • Panic attacks

Opioid detox: day 3

The withdrawal symptoms associated with short-acting opioids peak on the third day of detoxification. The most common symptoms during this phase of opioid detox are:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

Opioid detox: day 4

The withdrawal symptoms associated with long-acting opioids peak on the fourth day of detoxification. 

In addition to the above symptoms, you may encounter:  

  • GI disturbances
  • Enlarged pupils
  • Cramps
  • Tremors
  • Fatigue

Opioid detox: day 7

After a week of opioid detox, all symptoms should subside. The following side effects may persist: 

  • Insomnia
  • Depression
  • Fatigue 

PAWS (post-acute withdrawal symptoms) involves symptoms that linger for months after opioid detox. The most reported symptoms of PAWS are:

  • Fatigue
  • Episodes of depression
  • Intense cravings for opioids
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Irritability

Medications Used in Opioid Detox

The FDA approves these medications for the treatment of opioid addiction: 

  • Buprenorphine
  • Methadone
  • Vivitrol 

Both buprenorphine and methadone can be effective for reducing the intensity of opioid detox. Both medications work well throughout ongoing MAT (medication-assisted treatment) for opioid addiction. MAT is best delivered alongside psychotherapy like cognitive behavioral therapy. 

Other medications administered during opioid detox include: 

  • Opioid agonists
  • Opioid antagonists
  • Non-opioid agonists
  • Partial opioid agonists
  • Antidepressants
  • Benzodiazepines
  • Tapering medications

California Detox: Opioid Detox Center

Opioid use disorder is characterized by physical dependence on opioids and psychological addiction to this powerful controlled substance. We can help you tackle both these aspects here at California Detox in Laguna Beach. 

Before engaging with treatment, take advantage of our medical supervised detox program. This will streamline the intensity of opioid detox and minimize risks or complications during withdrawal. 

Once you are opioid-free, you can engage with one of the following treatment programs: 

  • Inpatient program (residential rehab)
  • OP (outpatient program)
  • IOP (intensive outpatient program)
  • Virtual IOP (remote rehab via video conferencing)
  • PHP (partial hospitalization program)
  • Dual diagnosis treatment program (for addictions with co-occurring mental health conditions) 

All California Detox treatment programs for opioid addiction involve a personalized array of holistic therapies and evidence-backed interventions, including: 

  • Medication-assisted treatment
  • Psychotherapy
  • Individual counseling
  • Group counseling
  • Family therapy 

Crucially, your treatment team will also ensure that you leave with a solid aftercare plan and relapse prevention strategies. 

Kickstart your recovery from opioid addiction with supervised detoxification at California Detox. Call admissions at 949.390.5377.

FAQs

The FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) approves these drugs for the treatment of opioid addiction: 

  • Buprenorphine
  • Methadone
  • Vivitrol 

Buprenorphine is most effective during opioid detox. A weak partial agonist, you must be opioid-free for 12 hours before taking buprenorphine. Taking buprenorphine with opioid still in your system can trigger a rapid opioid detox with acute withdrawal symptoms.

Methadone can also be effective for mitigating the symptoms of opioid withdrawal.

Most people detox from opioids in between 4 and 10 days. The average length of opioid detox is one week.

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