Opiate Addiction Detox

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.

About Opiate Addiction and Withdrawal

When an individual has been taking opiates for any 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.

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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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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:


  • Fainting
  • 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.

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