What to Expect When Detoxing from Opioids

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After using opioids for an extended period of time, your body desires more of the drug to achieve the same effect. This physical dependence is one of the reasons opioid detox is so difficult.

A multitude of uncomfortable symptoms come as a result of withdrawal from heroin and prescription opioids. Many individuals can become very ill when they stop using these drugs. If you require help with an opioid addiction and are concerned about detox, knowing what to expect can help you mentally and emotionally prepare for the process.

Initial Withdrawal Symptoms

Detoxing from opioids is a different experience for everyone. In general, symptoms begin about 24 hours after use. These initial symptoms are both physical and psychological and may include:

  • An overall feeling of restlessness
  • Muscle aches
  • Anxiety
  • Fatigue
  • Runny nose and eyes
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Sweating

Some people may not realize they have become physically dependent on opioids and mistake these early symptoms for a cold or flu.

Short-Term Detox

Symptoms typically begin to intensify after the first day. You may experience high blood pressure, nausea, vomiting, cramping, diarrhea, rapid heartbeat and chills. Cravings for the drug are also common throughout detox.

In many cases, symptoms improve after about 72 hours and begin to completely resolve within a week after the drug was last used. Factors that impact the length and severity of detox include your history of substance use and overall physical health.

In several cases, these symptoms are uncomfortable but not necessarily dangerous. It’s important to detox under a licensed physician’s care, however, to avoid complications such as aspiration of vomit into the lungs, dehydration and seizures. Emotional support from family and friends will also make the detox process easier.

Some individuals experience psychological symptoms for several months after physical detox has ended. These can include fatigue, difficulty sleeping, anxiety and depression. Treatment programs can help you manage ongoing symptoms with medication, therapy and self-care techniques.

Managing Opioid Withdrawal

Several opioid rehab centers offer a medication-assisted treatment (MAT) program, in which the patient detoxes in a controlled, comfortable environment with doctor-prescribed drugs for symptom relief. In the early stages of withdrawal, symptoms may be managed with over-the-counter drugs such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen, anti-diarrheal and anti-nausea medications.

Severe withdrawal symptoms may be treated with clonidine, a medication that can lessen the intensity of the illness by up to 75 percent, or suboxone, a combination of the opioid buprenorphine and an opioid blocker. Suboxone, an oral medication, lessens withdrawal symptoms but can trigger withdrawal immediately if it is injected. This makes it less likely to be abused than drugs like heroin and oxycodone.

In some cases, your physician or therapist may prescribe methadone, a milder opioid medication. The amount you take is gradually reduced over time to alleviate withdrawal symptoms until it is eventually discontinued. Because methadone can be addictive, this method is most successful when managed closely by a medical care provider.

If you or someone you love is suffering from an addiction to opioids, High Focus Centers is here to help. Our caring staff has years of experience helping individuals overcome substance abuse and greatly reduce the chance of relapse. Contact us today to learn how High Focus Centers can help you down the path to recovery.