Opioid Detox

One of the deadliest and most dangerous addictions is the abuse of the class of drugs called opioids. Originally developed as strong pain medications that were prescribed for such reasons as post-surgical pain or pain stemming from diseases like cancer, their abuse and the ensuing addiction problems have skyrocketed in recent years. If you think that someone you know is struggling with opioid abuse or addiction, learning about what opioid addiction and detoxing from it looks like and how to help them could save their life.

Opioids Detox

What Are Opioids?

When someone is experiencing serious or chronic pain, they may be prescribed a drug from the class of opioids. Heroin also is a type of opioid that was also originally developed as a prescription medicine. One aspect that sets opioids apart from many other prescription medications is that even when they are used as directed, opioid addiction can still occur since prolonged usage can create a dependency on the drug. Those who become addicted to opioid substances will also go through unpleasant withdrawal symptoms as well when they detox and remove the drug from their body.

People who misuse opioids are at risk of developing an opioid disorder, regardless of whether the medicine was initially medically necessary or began using the drug on their own. Those who misuse opioids may take more of the drug than was originally prescribed or may even take a prescribed dose given to someone else, but this misuse of illicit opioids may lead to an opioid disorder that makes detoxing and recovering from addiction even more difficult.

Why Are Opioids So Addictive?

The main reason why opioids are so commonly abused is that they have a two-pronged effect on the user. First, when someone uses an opioid, the brain increases the production of dopamine, the chemical the body releases that is responsible for making us feel good. When we do activities that we enjoy, like riding a bike or spending time with someone we love, our brain releases dopamine to give us that happy, pleasant feeling everyone is familiar with. But the use of opioids mimics this natural, positive feeling, tricking users into wanting more of that feeling, leading them towards misuse or even addiction. In addition to creating this dopamine-induced peaceful feeling, opioids also block the pain signals between the brain and the body by binding to the receptors in the brain responsible for sending them. This blockage dulls the brain’s perception of pain, acting as a pain relief mechanism for those with chronic or severe pain or simply reducing any painful feelings a user may be experiencing. By increasing dopamine production and reducing pain, opioid users quickly become used to the positive feelings produced by ingesting this class of drug, leading to its repeated use and eventual potential addiction.

Common Opioids

In order to better understand how opioid detox works, you will need to know which drugs fall into the opioid class. The following list encompasses the most common substances classified as opioids:

  • Codeine
  • Fentanyl (prescribed as Actiq, Duragesic and Sublimaze)
  • Hydrocodone (also known as Vicodin)
  • Hydromorphone (prescribed as Dilaudid)
  • Meperidine (prescribed as Demerol)
  • Morphine
  • Oxycodone (also known as Oxycontin and Percocet)
  • Oxymorphone (prescribed as Opana)
  • Tapentadol (also known as Nucynta)
  • Tramadol (also called Ultram)

Opioid Withdrawal: What it Looks Like

Those who have misused, abused or even used opioids according to their prescription will experience unpleasant sensations when they reduce the opioids they are taking or stop taking them completely. This reaction is called withdrawal, and it can present a very serious situation for those who are addicted to this class of drugs. Anyone who is dependent on the drug can experience mild symptoms or all of the withdrawal symptoms, but those who quit suddenly or reduce their dose quickly may be more prone to a severe withdrawal experience. Typical withdrawal symptoms are:

  • Anxiety
  • Bone and muscle pain
  • Chills
  • Diarrhea
  • Increased body temperature
  • Insomnia
  • High blood pressure
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Racing heart
  • Sweating

Withdrawal Timelines

Since taking opioids over a long period of time can allow a person to build up their tolerance to the drug, users can develop a dependence on the chemical to function normally without going into withdrawal. Those with tolerance to opioids will need more and more of the drug, over time, for their bodies to experience the same euphoric feeling and pain relief that they experienced earlier with a smaller amount of the drug. But when an addicted person stops using opioids, some feel the symptoms of withdrawal very quickly while other opioids take longer to produce feelings of withdrawal. While each person’s experience may vary based on the amount of drugs they have used and the length of time of their addiction, most opioids have an expected timeline for when the user will begin to experience withdrawal.

Short-acting Opioids (Heroin) – 8-12 hours for first symptoms to appear from last use; peak withdrawal symptoms occur within 1-3 days of last use; symptoms may last up to 7 days from the last use of the drug

Short-acting Opioids (Morphine) and Immediate Release Opioids (Oxycodone, Hydrocodone and Fentanyl) – withdrawal symptoms may appear in 8-24 hours following their last use; withdrawal can last up to 10 days from the last drug use

Long-acting or Extended-release/Controlled-release Opioids (Fentanyl, Hydrocodone, methadone, Morphine and Oxycodone) – withdrawal symptoms can begin as long as 36 hours after ingesting the drug; withdrawal may take up to 14 days or longer for these variants of opioids

Can You Die from Opioid Withdrawal?

Having a high tolerance and resulting dependence on opioids can lead to dangerous conditions like extreme drowsiness and slowed breathing as well as nausea and extreme euphoria. While these combined symptoms can put users in danger, withdrawal doesn’t typically lead to loss of life although the symptoms can be extremely uncomfortable. For those with pre-existing medical conditions or health concerns brought on by extended drug use, withdrawal and detox from opioids can be more dangerous and should be done under the care and treatment of medical and mental health professionals. And those struggling with addiction who become dehydrated from nausea and diarrhea while attempting to withdraw from opioids but then return to drug use may be at the greatest risk of overdosing.

Opioid Detox

Those seeking to release themselves from their opioid addiction will likely encounter a very uncomfortable withdrawal and detoxing period. But completing a successful detox from opioids doesn’t have to be something that you face alone so many people choose to enlist the aid of a detox center that can help manage the unpleasant symptoms and sometimes life-threatening circumstances that come with detox and withdrawal. For many seeking support, specific medicines can ease detox when supervised by a qualified detox center.

Buprenorphine

This medicine is used to not only minimize the unpleasant symptoms of withdrawal but to also help reduce cravings for more opioids. Buprenorphine is also used to help taper users off of opioids which can assist during the detox and treatment phases. Suboxone, which is a combination of buprenorphine and Naloxone, is often prescribed for a longer period to help with cravings as well as to minimize the risk of overdose for those fighting opioid addictions.

Methadone

Like Buprenorphine, Methadone is prescribed to someone trying to taper down from opioid use because it helps reduce the cravings for increased amounts of the drug while also diminishing the uncomfortable symptoms of withdrawal. The use of Methadone often persists long after a person is detoxed from opioids as it can help with long-term craving control and helps former addicts to stay clean and avoid the use of other opioids or illicit drugs.

Other Medicines Used in Detox

Many people detoxing from opioids experience anxiety over the detoxing and onset of withdrawal symptoms, so often Clonidine is prescribed to help. When potentially dangerous symptoms like diarrhea occur during detoxification, medical professionals may prescribe Loperamide to prevent the person from becoming dehydrated from this unpleasant symptom that could become deadly in some people.

Detox and Treatment for Opioid Addictions

Those fighting against opioid misuse or abuse can find relief with medical and mental health support during the challenges of detox and treatment for this addiction. Detox centers provide around-the-clock medical supervision to help those who are in the process of ridding opioids from their body. While the timeframe varies according to factors like how long someone has used opioids as well as their own tolerance levels, detox centers will provide personalized support and medical interventions during this potentially difficult time. For those facing opioid addiction, detox is only the first step in the process of fighting drug abuse and misuse. Supervised treatment like the programs offered at Long Island Interventions provides the next step in addiction recovery.

Let Long Island Interventions Help

If you or someone you know is in need of detoxification and treatment from opiate addiction, contact Long Island Interventions to help get you on the path to recovery. Our professional staff can help you find the detox program with one of our trusted affiliate providers that will support a healthy, safe detox to prepare for addiction treatment. We care about your recovery from opioid addiction and want to help you or your loved one move towards a healthier life, free from addiction.

Related Articles

FAQ

  • What are the three main types of opioids?
  • What is the difference between opioid tolerance and dependence?
  • What do opioids metabolized into?

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