Learn all about the detox process, treatment options, and how to find a program that fits your needs.
Detox is one of the most important steps for many individual’s addiction recoveries. If you choose to begin your rehab from opioid addiction with detox, you can start a safe, effective recovery program.
What is Detox?
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “Medical detoxification safely manages the acute physical symptoms of withdrawal associated with stopping drug use.” The process uses medications that can treat the uncomfortable and often painful symptoms of opioid withdrawal. This is often necessary because, as stated by the National Library of Medicine, opioid withdrawal can cause such symptoms as:
- Muscle aches
- Increased tearing
- Runny nose
- Abdominal cramping
- Dilated pupils
- Goose bumps
Most individuals going through opioid withdrawal do not have a strong tolerance for pain, and as such, need help managing their symptoms. This management also minimizes one’s chance of relapse during the difficult period of withdrawal.
What Happens in Detox?
Patients are given a medication that manages their withdrawal symptoms and are slowly weaned off that medication over time. Usually, patients are also prepared for rehab or can begin some of the options associated with addiction treatment.
Detox from opioids can last anywhere from a week to a month or so. It is important to understand, though, that once one’s detox from opioids is complete, they will still need to attend a rehab program in order to fully recover from their addiction.
What Are the Medications Used to Treat Opioid Withdrawal?
There are actually several options for opioid detox medications. This allows patients to have more treatment variety and to be able to choose (along with their doctor) the best option for their safe detox from narcotics.
Medications for Medically Assisted Opioid Withdrawal
- Clonidine is one of the most widely used detox medications for narcotics abusers. The drug itself is a centrally acting alpha-agonist hypotensive agent, and it is often used to treat high blood pressure (NLM). However, it can also treat withdrawal symptoms like
- Muscle and bone pain
- Runny nose
- Clonidine does not treat one’s cravings for opioids, though. Insomnia, diarrhea, and vomiting also cannot be treated with clonidine, especially because the drug can cause these issues as side effects of its own. Other medications may sometimes be used to manage these symptoms.
- Methadone is an opioid agonist that acts similarly to other opioids. However, when given in managed doses, the drug will not cause the euphoria that other opioids can cause. It can also manage one’s withdrawal symptoms and cravings, and the individual can be slowly weaned off the drug as their dependence diminishes.
- Some patients choose to stay managed on methadone for a longer period of time, rather than going through detox early in their recoveries. This treatment option is called methadone management and is especially effective for those with strong dependencies and those who have been abusing narcotics for a long time.
- Methadone, when taken in higher doses, can cause euphoria, which is why the drug is often abused. Therefore, patients can only receive the medication at specialized clinics called methadone clinics.
- Buprenorphine is a partial opioid agonist. It is often paired with naloxone as a maintenance drug, but alone, it can be a beneficial detox treatment for narcotic addicts.
- Buprenorphine is safer than methadone in many ways. Because of its ceiling effect, those who may abuse it are less likely to experience a high or an overdose than those who abuse full opioid agonists (like methadone). According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the drug is long acting and does not need to be taken every day, so patients can receive it from a doctor’s office instead of only from a specialized clinic.
- However, buprenorphine is not as effective for the treatment of those with severe dependencies on opioids. Optimal doses of methadone are usually more effective in this case.
Inpatient Detox vs. Outpatient Detox
There are two types of detox centers where you can receive your medication and any other types of treatment: inpatient and outpatient. Inpatient centers provide 24-hour care in a controlled environment. Outpatient centers may provide daily care, but patients do not stay overnight. Many of these programs also offer addiction treatment as part of their programs while some only provide help with detox itself.
How Do I Choose the Right Detox Program?
Depending on your specific needs, inpatient or outpatient detox may be a better option for you.
- Often, those suffering from additional psychological issues may require inpatient care, even during detox. According to the Psychiatric Quarterly, patients with “high psychiatric severity” fare better in inpatient care than outpatient care.
- This could specifically benefit those suffering from depression or anxiety as a result of their withdrawal from opioids. In addition, anyone with a co-occurring mental disorder may want to choose inpatient care at least during their initial treatment phase.
- Individuals without a strong social support system often require inpatient care as well. Withdrawal from opioids can be very difficult, even when a person is in detox and receiving medication. The desire to relapse can be intense, so those who do not have friends and family members who can help them fight these desires may want to choose inpatient treatment where they can be monitored 24-7.
- Many people do not live in an environment that is conducive to recovery. If you are living somewhere where drugs are readily available or where you do not feel safe, inpatient care is a beneficial option.
- People with “jobs and extensive social supports” often fare better in outpatient care, according to the NIDA. Those who want to live their daily lives but still be managed for their withdrawal symptoms may want to choose outpatient care as well.
Choosing inpatient or outpatient detox isn’t the only part of finding a program that suits your needs, though. Think about everything you will require from your detox center before you choose a program, including any accommodations you will need related to your age, health, gender, culture, etc. For example, will you need to find a Spanish speaking program or an inpatient center that offers kosher meals? Everything must be taken into account when choosing a detox center.
What Happens After Detox?
After detox, a person will need to attend addiction treatment. Often, this also involves the use of medications and behavioral therapies. Addiction treatment usually occurs after detox so the individual’s withdrawal symptoms will be less severe and they will be able to focus on their recoveries rather than their withdrawals.
After addiction treatment, many individuals choose to attend an aftercare program. These can range from intensive options like additional treatment programs or sober living homes to more flexible options like support groups and booster sessions.
After Detox, Will I Be Cured?
No. Many individuals believe they are cured after they stop experiencing withdrawal symptoms, but this is not true. Detox treats one’s dependence on opioids, but after an individual goes through this process, they will still be addicted to these drugs. In fact, those who have just gone through opioid withdrawal or detox have the highest rate of overdose deaths of any other population (NLM 1).
This is because detox, while often an essential part of the path to recovery, is not the only step in the process. Without the follow-up of addiction treatment, a person will not know how to avoid relapse, how to change their lifestyle to a safer, healthier one, and how to continue living a life in recovery. Therefore, it is very important to continue strengthening your recovery from opioids by seeking treatment beyond detox.
How Can I Find Opioid Detox Treatment?
Detox and rehab centers exist all over the country where you can begin your recovery as safely as possible with the help of medical professionals. Call (800) 407-7195(Who Answers?) now for help finding the treatment center that best suits your needs. We can also match you with a program that will accept your insurance plan and answer any questions you may have about opioid detox, addiction, and recovery. Call today.