Detoxing from opioids can be an intimidating prospect.
For many, facing the withdrawal symptoms that come hand-in-hand may feel like climbing a mountain. Yet, reaching the top and completing an opioid detox will be one of the greatest achievements of your life.
Walking away from drugs will give you the best chance of a happy, healthy future. With appropriate support and medical advice, you can be comforted knowing that, despite its challenges, opioid detox can be achieved, and securing a long-term recovery is possible.
What Are Opioids?
Prescribed by medical professionals to reduce chronic pain, opioids cover a range of drugs. Often derived from the poppy plant or produced synthetically in a laboratory, they work by attaching to the opioid receptors in the brain, which alleviate feelings of pain and increase feelings of pleasure. The experience of these euphoric feelings can lead to addiction.
Some of the most common opioids include:
- Oxycodone (OxyContin)
- Hydrocodone (Vicodin)
Heroin and fentanyl are particularly dangerous. Heroin, for example, is an illegal drug that is highly addictive. In contrast, fentanyl is fifty to one-hundred times more potent. Although fentanyl is a prescription drug, it is also produced and abused illegally. Due to the strength of the drug, it only takes a small amount to cause a fatal overdose.
What Withdrawal Symptoms Can I Expect?
Opioid withdrawal symptoms can range from mild to severe, with those who have abused opioids for longer and more frequently more likely to experience the most intense symptoms.
Other factors which may affect the experience of withdrawal include:
- Family history
- Current health and well-being
- Underlying mental or physical health conditions
- How the substance was administered
Opioid detox can be uncomfortable. However, embarking on the detox and recovery journey alongside a medical professional will ensure safety and maximize comfort. It will also reduce the chance of relapse.
Although the withdrawal symptoms experienced are often dependent on the type of opioid drug used, the timeline of withdrawal symptoms can generally be divided into the following sections:
Initial withdrawal symptoms appear six to twelve hours after the last dose of the drug. They may include:
- Sleep problems
- Anxiety or irritability
- Muscle aches or pains
At this stage, withdrawal symptoms will arise seventy-two hours after the last dose of the drug and often last for a week.
The early-stage symptoms will generally intensify, leading to new symptoms such as:
- Body tremors
- Muscle spasms
- Increased blood pressure
- Dilated pupils
Following the peak stage, the effects of withdrawal start to ease. This usually happens within a week. However, symptoms such as anxiety, depression, insomnia, and cravings may persist. For some, these could last for months or even years.
What Treatment Options Are Available?
Detoxing from opioids usually consists of tapering the dose of the drug consumed. This means that when you detox from opioids, your dose will slowly be reduced. This ensures that your body can become accustomed to a reduced amount of the drug as you overcome your dependence.
More than often, detox is medically induced. Here, medications such as methadone or buprenorphine are administered. Other medications are also available to ease withdrawal symptoms such as diarrhea and anxiety.
It is important to remember that medication is only the first stage of recovery from opioid addiction. To avoid relapse, therapy and counseling must be completed. These two treatments ensure that the root cause of the addiction can be treated. Therapy also contributes to improved mental health.
You may be advised to attend a rehab center that will enable you to undergo a medically supervised detox, alongside therapy, counseling, and the correct aftercare to support you in long-term recovery.