Opiate Detox Facts
What Are Opiates?
The Opiate drug family is actually a subset of opioids that naturally occur in the opium poppy. These drugs are powerful narcotics that can create euphoria even when taken in prescribed amounts. They are controlled by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) because of their highly addictive nature. Prescribed to alleviate moderate to severe pain, the drug acts by attaching to opioid receptors and minimize the body’s perception of pain, offering substantial relief.
When opiates are taken with any sort of regularity, the brain’s biochemical interaction changes in response to the flood of opiates. Using any opiates triggers a huge release of dopamine, the pleasure chemical in our brains, causing the euphoric feelings that are hugely addictive. At the same time, reducing its production of naturally occurring noradrenaline, which regulates alertness and energy. The reduction of noradrenaline can be temporary or permanent depending on the length of use and the amount taken.
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About Opiate Addiction and Withdrawal
When an individual has been taking opiates for an extended amount of time, the chances that withdrawal symptoms will be present when discontinuing use are very high. The severity of these symptoms can vary drastically from person to person. Individuals who struggle with addiction to opiates, or those who have become physiologically dependent, can experience acute opiate withdrawal symptoms when discontinuing use. This severity of opiate addiction withdrawal can be evaluated using a scale called the Subjective Opiate Withdrawal Scale (SOWS) which rates adult symptoms from 0-4 with 4 being extreme.
Opiate Withdrawal is not easy. The body has become accustomed to being under the control of the opiates and now that they are not present, the body will rebel to the new norm, trying to convince the patient that they can have relief from the withdrawal symptoms as soon as they get their next fix. The process of withdrawal is about as unpleasant as it gets, but it is necessary to begin the patient’s new life that is free from drugs and back in their control. Withdrawal can last a few days, or even a couple of weeks depending on the length of time the person has been addicted and how heavy their drug usage was. The good news is that with every day that passes the body will adjust a little more to not having the drugs in its system and the effects of the withdrawal will lessen. Eventually, the withdrawal will pass ad the body and mind will start to heal, and that when the journey to a new drug-free life can really begin.
Opiate Withdrawal Symptoms
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Withdrawal from opiates is usually not directly life-threatening, but it can cause extreme discomfort. The severity of the symptoms of opiate withdrawal is directly related to the individual’s drug of choice, the frequency of use, overall mental and physical health, and drug dosing. The majority of withdrawal symptoms will reach a peak in severity between 48-72 hours after the last time used. The length of the long term withdrawal symptoms can be up to 6 months for some. Common withdrawal symptoms can include:
- Restlessness and Involuntary Movements
- Insomnia and Frequent Yawning
- Cold Sweats, Cold Flashes, and Goose Bumps
- Abdominal Cramping, Nausea, Vomiting, and Diarrhea
- Muscle, Joint, and Bone Pain
- Changes in Appetite and Extreme Cravings
- Impaired Judgement and Impulsivity
- Dilated Pupils and Excessive Tears
About Opiate Addiction Detox
Detoxification refers to the natural process the body undergoes when breaking down and purging substances toxic to the entire system. For most seeking freedom from opiate addiction, inpatient and outpatient detoxification programs are recommended. This allows full evaluation and medically supervised stabilization during withdrawal. Depending on the individuals’ current health status and level of addiction, an appropriate detox program should be offered based on the following:
- Intensity of Current Withdrawal Symptoms
- Prior Detox or Drug Treatment History
- Current Lifestyle and Means of Transportation
When evaluating the appropriateness of a treatment program for detox, all factors of an individual’s current living situation and environment must be taken into account. For those seeking true recovery from lingering addictions or relapse, inpatient care might be a better fit. For others who have proven ability to maintain working and family relationships, outpatient detox might be suitable. Speak with one of our counselors today and find out what Coastline Rehab Center staff recommends for your opiate addiction detox treatments.
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When it comes to opiate recovery treatment, the only truly effective and long-lasting approach is a multi-faceted one. The truth is that dealing with the physical desire for the drugs is the easy part. The hardest part is helping the patient come to an understanding as to why they started using them in the first place, as well as helping them to understand how they can make and keep up with the positive changes in their lives that will help them avoid drug use in the future. Often this part of the journey is made more difficult due to the fact that the patient may not know why they started using and may need extensive help trying to determine what the foundation of their drug use really is. This should be done in an understanding and caring environment. Guidance and support are essential to this part of the process.
A good treatment program will address all of these factors to get the patient ready for what may very well be the hardest part of the journey. This hard part isn’t staying clean and hasn’t been the getting clean process, but forgiveness. When speaking of forgiveness in opiate treatment programs this doesn’t just involve the person seeking and attaining forgiveness from those whom they have wronged but also learning to forgive themselves for the damage that they have caused in their own lives, many times, the damage that is irreparable. It is this forgiveness step that prepares the patient for their new life after drugs.
Medications for Opiate Addiction Detox
It is quite common for medications to be prescribed during opiate detox. The reasons for this are multifaceted, but on a basic level, patients who commit to drug detox have higher success rates with less complications when supported medicinally. Studies have shown that detox patients who are supported with these medications experience physiological benefits that aid long term recovery. While detoxification can be very uncomfortable, it isn’t often fatal. Still, the physical symptoms can overwhelm many trying to detox on their own, resulting in multiple failed attempts to get sober. There are several drugs that are commonly used for opiate addiction detox.
Methadone is a synthetic opioid analgesic with long-acting effects used to treat opiate addiction. It works by blocking the euphoric side effects of drugs like heroin while providing powerful pain relief and calming intense cravings and withdrawal effects. Methadone must be distributed from a medically licensed clinic, and patients will need to receive their doses on-site. Methadone will slow brain activity by depressing the central nervous system, which will the following side effects:
- Mood Changes and Confusion
- Abnormal heartbeat or Fainting
- Impaired Coordination and Vision Problems
- Loss of Appetite or Stomach Pain
- Changes in Menstrual Cycles or Sexual Side Effects
- Shallow Breathing, Sweating, or Slowed Heart Rate
- Flushed, Red Skin
- Weight Fluctuations and Constipation
Sometimes methadone can cause very serious and dangerous reactions which will need to be urgently addressed by medical professionals. Some of these severe reactions might include:
- Sudden Chest Pain
- Increased Confusion or Hallucinations
- Allergic Reactions such as Hives, Swelling of Mucous Membranes or Tongue
- Difficulty With Breathing
Much like methadone, buprenorphine is an opioid agonist that works to reduce severe pain without inducing a “high” felt when individuals take heroin or other opiates. Working by depressing the central nervous system, buprenorphine will limit the bodies perception of painful withdrawal symptoms. This medication is only available through a doctor’s prescription, but unlike methadone, can be taken outside a clinic. Buprenorphine treatment is significantly costlier than methadone, which can preclude its use by some. Some of the more common side effects of buprenorphine are the following:
- Dizziness, Drowsiness, and Feeling of Drunkenness
- Difficulty Concentrating or Headache
- Stomach Pain, Vomiting or Constipation
- Mouth Pain, Redness or Numbness
- Sleep Disruptions
Some more serious side effects that may require immediate medical attention include:
- Severe Dizziness
- Mood Changes including Agitation, Hallucinations, and Marked Confusion
- Unusual Drowsiness or Difficulty Waking
- Fast, Irregular Heartbeat or Pounding Chest
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Naltrexone works as an antagonist to opioids and alcohol. Blocking the “high” achieved by heroin, alcoholic beverages, and other opiates, naltrexone can help individuals navigate detox by alleviating symptoms of withdrawal that make stopping cold turkey unbearable. Some of the side effects of naltrexone use are the following:
- Nausea, Vomiting, Diarrhea, and Constipation
- Stomach Pain and Cramping
- Headache, Dizziness, and Drowsiness
- Rashes, Decreased Energy, and Emotional Instability
- Nervousness and Anxiety
- Pain at Injection Site
Serious side effects of naltrexone include the following and should be brought to the attention of medical professionals:
- Allergic Reactions such as Hives, Breathing Issues, Swelling
- Hallucinations and Extreme Confusion
- Blurry Vision
- Severe Gastrointestinal Issues
Rapid Opiate Detox
As the name suggests, rapid drug detox is a condensed purging of opiates from the body, done under general anesthesia in a properly equipped medical center. Often referred to as Ultra Rapid Detoxification, this procedure has waxed and waned in popularity and credibility. Detoxification is fast, often in under 24 hours, during which the individual is not awake or aware of symptoms, and is medicated to control undesirable side effects of withdrawal.
The program was first developed as a way to help people struggling with recurring addiction issues resulting from heroin and other opiates. When the patient wakes following treatment, they will be “clean”, but because of the lack of physiological and emotional therapies, and the lack of withdrawal “memory”, the long term success rates are actually quite poor.
While some may say that opiate treatment can be done on an outpatient basis, the fact is that it is never going to be as effective as traditional inpatient treatment programs. There are just too many temptations, distractions, and opportunities to fail presented when trying to pursue treatment on one’s own and in an outpatient program. Inpatient treatment at an opiate rehab center works, and pursuing it is the best way to help ensure the best chance of success.
When choosing an inpatient treatment program, it is important to not only pick one that is affordable, but also one which is comprehensive. A good inpatient program should offer more than just detoxing and basic counseling.
A good program should offer:
- Guidance through the entire journey, offered by professional and experienced staff
- A customized support program that addresses the patient as an individual
- Extensive and personal behavioral and psychological counseling to help address the root causes of substance abuse
- The opportunity to discover new levels of oneself and one’s personal sense of worth to help reinforce that life is worth living and is better without the drugs
- The chance to make new friends who understand and can help you succeed together
- Education about resources and support in the home community that can help one stay on the right path and drug-free for life
- Assistance in putting the pieces of one’s life back together, such as job placement, forgiveness, and relationship rebuilding, and legal counseling
Dealing with opiate addiction is a harsh journey, but there is a life after drugs. Finding the right opiate rehab center is the first step toward having that life. Choosing a caring and experienced inpatient treatment program that can help with the tough road toward healthiness that lies ahead is essential. These opiate addiction facts will prepare the patient and their loved ones for what is in store. It’s a long journey toward opiate addiction recovery that doesn’t have to be taken alone, however. We can help you get your life back.