What Happens During Opioid Detox and Withdrawal?

Understanding the Process of Opioid Detox and Withdrawal

Trying to eliminate or lessen opioid usage can cause some people to develop physical and psychological symptoms associated with opioid withdrawal due to the drug’s ability to alter your brain chemistry.

After your body begins to adapt to the constant presence of the substance in your system, it becomes so accustomed to the presence of opioids that you’ll eventually find that you need to continue taking them to act ‘normally.’

Continued abuse of opioid drugs can lead to a tolerance to the substance, which means you’ll eventually need to take higher doses to achieve the same effects. If you attempt to stop taking the drug suddenly, your body is unable to adapt quickly. The result can mean experiencing unpleasant physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms. Some of the symptoms can be so awful that the person may be tempted to relapse and return to retaking opioid drugs to avoid feeling such horrible symptoms.

Unfortunately, if you had built up a tolerance to opioid drugs before trying to quit, you would likely attempt to take similar doses to what you were taking before. You might not realize that you would have reduced your body’s tolerance levels during the time you tried to stop, which can lead to an accidental overdose.

What Is Opioid Withdrawal?

Opioid withdrawal is the term given when a person dependent on opioid drugs experiences uncomfortable physical and psychological symptoms when trying to stop using the substance.

Over some time, the brain adapts to having constant input from opioids. Yet when you try to stop taking the drug, your brain can’t adapt to its loss quickly. As a result, your brain chemistry may go into overdrive to compensate for the sudden lack of opioids in your system. At this point, you might experience some unpleasant withdrawal symptoms.

If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction, call WhiteSands Alcohol and Drug Rehab today at 877.969.1993 to learn how we can help. 

Opioid Withdrawal Symptoms

The majority of people who experience opioid withdrawal symptoms may find some symptoms arise earlier than others. Early withdrawal symptoms can begin as soon as a few hours after taking your last dose and can include:

  • Feelings of anxiety
  • Muscle aches
  • Insomnia and sleep disturbances
  • Profuse sweating
  • Agitation
  • Runny nose
  • Excessive yawning
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Intense cravings for opioids

Some people may also be at risk of experiencing more severe withdrawal symptoms. These can begin up to 72 hours after taking your last dose and might include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Severe abdominal cramps
  • Increased heart rate
  • Dysphoria
  • Depression

Anyone trying to detox from opioid drugs at home may discover that the symptoms are very unpleasant. Those who continue through the ‘cold turkey’ detox process may also be at risk of dehydration, particularly true for those who experience severe vomiting and diarrhea. This complication is why medical opioid detox is strongly recommended for anyone thinking of detoxing from opioid drugs.

What Is Medical Detox for Opioids?

Medical detox involves replacing the drug of addiction with controlled prescription medication. Most people automatically associate prescription medications such as methadone with treatment for opioid addiction.

However, there are also methadone substitutes available, such as Suboxone®. Suboxone® is a prescription medication created using buprenorphine and naloxone. It works as an opioid blocker that blunts the effects of opioids in the system.

During medical detox, the recovering person will be given prescription medications that can help reduce the severity of any withdrawal symptoms and make it easier to manage cravings. While you’re taking Suboxone®, you should find that you don’t experience the unpleasant symptoms associated with withdrawal. You should also find that your cravings to return to opioid use are reduced, making it easier to manage your early recovery.

What Happens in Opioid Detox?

If you’ve entered into a comprehensive medical detox program, you’ll stay at the treatment center so our WhiteSands medical staff can administer your treatment medications. We’ll also monitor your vital health signs and check your overall progress continuously for your safety.

Throughout detox, your body begins to lose its dependency on the substance. Your mind also begins learning new ways to adapt without the need for opioid drugs.

How Long Does Opioid Detox Take?

The length of time it can take to detox from opioid drugs can vary for each person, depending on several factors. The length of time you were taking the drug, the dosages you were taking, and the risk of developing nasty withdrawal symptoms can all play a factor in how long it can take to get through detox.

Most people in recovery should find that symptoms can emerge as quickly as a few hours after the last dose. Some signs may take up to three days to appear. However, most people should find that they’re through the worst of the detox process in about a week. Depending on your addiction’s severity, some people may remain on medically assisted treatments (MAT) for several weeks or even months.

What Happens After Opioid Detox?

Once you’ve completed the detox process, you’ll be encouraged to attend individual counseling sessions. After all, detox only helps break your body’s physical dependency on the substance, but it won’t do anything to treat the underlying emotional reasons behind addictive drug use.

Your counselor will work with you to identify some of your unique addiction triggers. You’ll also begin developing a solid relapse prevention strategy that helps you avoid temptations and maintain your motivation to stay sober.

Opioid Addiction Treatment at WhiteSands

When undergoing treatment at WhiteSands Alcohol and Drug Rehab, you’ll have the benefit of medical supervision for your safety, making it easier for you to manage your ongoing recovery in a comfortable and luxurious setting at our residential facilities.

If you’re ready to break free from the grip of opioid addiction and take control of your life, please contact us today. We’re here to offer all the support and guidance you need to make a successful recovery so you can enjoy your healthy, sober lifestyle long into the future.

If you or a loved one needs help with abuse and/or treatment, please call the WhiteSands Treatment at (877) 855-3470. Our addiction specialists can assess your recovery needs and help you get the addiction treatment that provides the best chance for your long-term recovery.

About the Author

Jackie has been involved in the substance abuse and addiction treatment sector for over five years and this is something that she is truly eager about. She has a passion for writing and continuously works to create informative pieces that not only educate and inform the public about the disease of addiction but also provide solutions for those who struggle with drug and alcohol abuse.