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Opiate Detox: What Happens When a Person Stops Taking Opiates?

The opiate detox process is often incredibly frightening for people who have become dependent on opioid drugs. Often, doctors prescribe medications like Oxycodone, Vicodin, Dilaudid, or Fentanyl to patients for conditions that cause legitimate chronic pain. These unsuspecting patients take these prescription opioids as directed by their doctor and before they know it, they are hooked. They had no intention of abusing the medication; they simply wanted pain relief.

But opiates are highly addictive and can produce withdrawal symptoms upon cessation very quickly. The fear of withdrawal and unmedicated pain combine to push patients deeper and deeper into dependence and addiction. Eventually, many realize that they cannot stop taking opiates on their own. 

Stages of Detox from Opiates

The timeline for opioid detox is dependent on a number of factors including the half-life of that particular opioid. Longer acting opioids like methadone and Suboxone have longer lasting withdrawals than opioids with a shorter half-life. In contrast, withdrawal from shorter acting opioids like oxycodone and fentanyl begins closer to the time of the last dose.

  • The first stage of opiate detox can begin several hours after the last dose. Symptoms include intense opiate cravings, anxiety, and restlessness. At this point, many opiate users will begin having obsessive thoughts about getting more opiates.

They will begin to make excuses to themselves about why they need another dose right now. And many times, they won’t even be aware that these thoughts are unnatural.

  • The next stage of opiate detox is when more intense physical symptoms begin to appear. These opiate detox symptoms include flu-like chills and sweats, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, trouble sleeping, and noticeable mood changes. This stage usually starts within 24-48 hours after a person stops taking opiates.

At this stage, it is common to experience depression and acute feelings of hopelessness. How long this opiate detox stage lasts depends on the drug, dose, and how long the person has been taking it.

  • During the final stage, detox symptoms will begin to dissipate. It is common at this stage to notice opioid-induced hyperalgesia. This condition causes patients to be more sensitive to pain. In this way, opioid medications actually exacerbate the pain conditions for which they are prescribed.

Some people experience a continuation or recurrence of less severe withdrawal symptoms for an extended period. This condition is called post-acute withdrawal syndrome. Some end up dealing with post-acute withdrawal syndrome for months after stopping opiates.

How Long Does it Take to Detox from Heroin?

Because heroin is a short-acting opioid, detox typically takes 4-10 days. During this period, heroin detox symptoms may include anxiety, insomnia, muscle cramps, restless legs, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, runny nose, and cold sweats.

The heroin detox timeline depends on how much a person is using and how long they have been dependent on heroin. While these symptoms are not life-threatening, they are extremely uncomfortable. Because of this discomfort, relapsing before the drug detox is over is common.

Admitting into an opiate detox center can make detox symptoms much more manageable and reduce the likelihood of relapse. In a treatment center, doctors can prescribe heroin detox medication to curb heroin withdrawal symptoms. Additionally, clinicians oversee support groups that can help treat the mental illness that underlies the heroin addiction.

Rapid Opiate Detox

Because opiate detox can be so uncomfortable, people often look for procedures like rapid opiate detox to shorten the period of discomfort. Rapid opiate detox is a procedure where doctors use anesthesia to sedate a patient. They then administer opioid-antagonist medication like naloxone to precipitate opiate withdrawal. These ultra-rapid detox procedures are not performed at traditional drug rehabs as they require trained anesthesiologists and hospital-level medical equipment.

Rapid detox is not covered by insurance as it is unsafe and is less effective than traditional addiction treatment. Deaths and severe adverse reactions have been reported at clinics that offer ultra-rapid opiate detox in the United States. The safest and most effective way to get off opiates or heroin is to seek an opiate detox center. Opiate addiction treatments that neglect to treat the psychological factors that contribute to opioid use disorder are destined to fail.

Home Remedies for Opiate Detox

Often, people who are afraid to come clean about their addiction look for ways to help detox from opiates at home. Some people claim that Imodium, a brand of loperamide, helps with opiate detox. Loperamide is actually an opioid, so some people will try taking high doses to help with detox symptoms.

However, Imodium does not cross the blood-brain barrier. It does not affect the central nervous system, so it will not help with any of the psychological symptoms of detox.

Another medication people use to help with opiate detox is Benadryl, which can help with insomnia and anxiety. Propranolol can also be used for opiate detox as it may decrease the sweating and rapid heartrate. But Propranolol requires a prescription and should only be used as directed by a doctor.

Ultimately, there is no good home remedy for opiate detox. Only proper medical treatment at an opiate detox center will limit withdrawal and help you recover.

Florida Opiate Detox Center

The only truly safe and effective way to detox from opiates is at a medical detox facility. 1 Solution Detox offers opiate detox in Florida at a luxury inpatient setting. When you come into our detox center, you will be medically assessed by health-care experts who will prescribe opioid detox medications. These medications will help to curb withdrawal symptoms and make you more comfortable.

If you have underlying chronic-pain conditions, our doctors will make sure that you receive the proper medication and treatment. This way, we will ensure that your pain can be managed in a way that is safe and effective.

Any withdrawal symptoms that you experience during your detox will be relieved using non-narcotic comfort medications. Our accommodations will keep you comfortable and relaxed throughout your treatment.

Once your detox is complete, you will have the chance to work through the psychological components that lead to drug abuse. Expert therapists will create a customized treatment programs designed to address your specific needs. By the time you leave our Palm Beach detox center, you will be free from opioids physically and mentally.

Experts are standing by to help you schedule your admission to our opiate detox program. They can also talk you through whatever questions or concerns you may have. Don’t try to detox from opiates at home. Call us today!

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Information on opioid withdrawal from NIH

Information on opioid-induced hyperalgesia from HSS

Information on anesthesia-assisted rapid opiate detoxification (AAROD) from CDC