Opiate Detox

From heroin to prescription drugs like OxyContin and Vicodin, the pull of opiates is seen far and wide in the United States. In fact, data from the National Institute of Health shows that at least 16 million Americans used an opioid improperly in just a year’s time. It is this improper use that leads to addiction, although even responsible use can result in dependency.

This category of drugs (even prescriptions) takes such a physical and mental toll on their users that traditional “cold turkey” methods of detox are often unsuccessful. Thus, other detox methods are considered superior. They may take longer, but they’re often safer and more comfortable for the patient.

*Types of Opiates

If you are addicted to medications or substances with the following ingredients, then you have an opiate addiction. Many drug users fail to realize that the opiate category encompasses a wide variety of drugs. These include:

  • Medications that include morphine
  • Medications that include codeine (e.g., Tylenol 3)
  • Medications that include Thebain (like Vicodin or oxycodone)

The illicit substance heroin also falls into the opiate category.

Opiate Detox: The Timeline for Untreated Drug Withdrawal

It is possible to begin experiencing drug withdrawal when you have stopped using entirely, and when you have simply become so dependent that your body craves a higher dose of opiates than you are providing it with.

The duration of opiate detox depends greatly on the severity of the dependence. An opiate detox that’s performed without any medical intervention can last anywhere from a couple of days to a week or more as the body cleanses itself of the drugs, and experiences its most profound withdrawal symptoms.

Throughout the process, a number of different symptoms can occur. Early in the detox, nausea, shaking, and a bad mood are among the first symptoms that surface. As the detox process progresses, however, fevers and difficulty focusing also occur. Withdrawal symptoms do also tend to build upon one another – nausea can become vomiting and diarrhea as detox continues – until they reach a peak and begin to taper off as the detox process continues.

To simply stop taking opiates is a difficult choice, and this method of detox is not always successful – and often dangerous – without the support of rehabilitation center staff, doctors or family members.  Contact us for more information on this option so you don’t have to suffer through the process alone. If regimented treatment doesn’t seem feasible, there are still other ways to detox.

Other Opiate Detox Methods

When it comes to opiate detox, the reality is that faster may not be the best choice for you. Other options include:

  • Detox with medications. Prescriptions like Suboxone are becoming more popular as a gradual opiate detox method. The process is relatively simple; a user ceases opiate use and instead takes this drug. Then, after a period of weeks and sometimes months, their dosage is reduced until the medication is not necessary. This method can help to greatly reduce the number of withdrawal symptoms that you will experience, and that can also decrease the likelihood of relapse. A doctor will have to monitor types of treatment.
  • Tapering the opiate use.  When the opiate being abused is a prescription medication (and even sometimes when it’s not), detox is often as simple as reducing the dosage at set intervals. It gives the body time to adjust so you don’t experience such a harsh withdrawal process. Typically, a doctor will need to monitor you and provide advice on how you can taper your medications to stop the cycle of dependency.

It’s important to note that without proper monitoring and mental health treatment, any opiate detox method will not be as effective as it should be. Therapeutic counseling is generally needed to prevent relapse. Treatment that also focuses on behavioral rehabilitation, in addition to the detox process, will always have the greatest benefit.