10 Nov How Long Does It Take to Detox from Opiates?
Detoxification from opiate withdrawal is an emotionally draining endeavor. Whether detox was intentional or involuntary, the hours and days to come promise to be an uphill battle.
Never before in the United States have more people died from drug overdose, and the main driving force behind this epidemic is opiates; in fact, opiate use is the number one cause of accidental death in the United States.
Not only are opiates one of the most dangerous drugs on the planet, they are also the most addictive. However, with a planned and strategic approach, detoxification from opiates is possible.
What is Detoxification?
Detoxification is a natural process by which an individual makes a lifestyle decision to cleanse the body and mind from toxins; in essence, detoxification is to change past behavior for the greater good of one’s health.
Detoxification is sometimes used as a temporary solution to help the body recover from unnatural sugars, diary, red meat, gluten, MSG, etc.
However, in the case of opiate addiction, detoxification should be a permanent decision, because unlike gluten or dairy, opiates are deadly.
Depending on the severity of the drug addition, the opiate detox phase can either be categorized as moderately uncomfortable to unbearably severe. For individuals with severe opiate addictions, managing detoxification can be incredibly challenging as well as potentially dangerous. Detoxification should be done in a safe, medically secure environment with trained staff always accessible.
How Long Does It Take to Detox from Opiates?
The length of time an individual is expected to successfully detox from opiates varies. However, the longer an opiate user abuses the drug, the longer it will likely stay in one’s system. The more the brain and body is used to something on a consistent basis, whether it be sugar, caffeine, etc., the harder the brain and body will work to conserve it.
On the other hand, for some individuals, successfully detoxification (i.e., feeling calm, relaxed, free of intense physical discomfort and toxin-free) might only take a few days.
What happens to the brain during detox?
During the initial stages of withdrawal, the brain “panics” and begins to crave dopamine to its initial levels. Because opiate drug use fools the brain into thinking
What are Opiates?
In medical practice, opiates are natural alkaloids (i.e., naturally occurring chemicals) treated to help alleviate people suffering from moderate to severe pain. Opiates are derived from opium, which is found naturally in poppy plants and extracted for medical use.
In medical practice, opiates are segmented into two different categories: natural opiate alkaloids and opioids.
What are Opioids?
In medical practice, opioids are unnaturally manufactured chemicals used to alleviate people suffering from moderate to severe pain. Opioids have a very similar chemical infrastructure to opiates, and mimic many of the same effects in the brain. Opioids are also commonly spliced together with opiate and non-opiate chemicals.
Natural opiates include: morphine, thebaine, heroin and codeine
Semi-synthetic or synthetic opioids include: methadone, Percocet, Dilaudid, oxycodone, etc.
Acute Opiate Withdrawal
Acute opioid withdrawal (AOW) usually occurs within 5 to 12 hours after detoxification begins (i.e., the last dose). After 4 days, AOW symptoms will begin dissipate (day 3 AOW is usually the most severe).
AOW symptoms include:
- Vital need for opiates
- Depression; anxiety; mood swings; anger; confusion
- Strong fear of not having opiates
- Fever; chills; runny nose; clammy hands
- Muscle spasms
- Feeling like you’re about to faint
- Increased heart rate; slowed breathing; irregular pulse
- Increased muscle pain
- Trouble getting out of bed
- Trouble urinating
Detox Symbolizes the First Phase of Recovery
Getting through the first stage of opiate-related detox may have been extremely uncomfortable and emotionally exhausting, but it should been interpreted as a huge accomplishment in your life. Once AOW is over, both your mind and body are better prepared to take on the next challenging steps ahead; the cleansing of opiate-related toxins leaving your body puts you in a different state of mind that is not volatile.
Post-acute opiate withdrawal includes a more cognitive behavioral approach, where you develop the skills and social tools needed to overcome cravings and find support. It’s imperative to understand that the road to recovery is long, meticulous and uncomfortable; expecting to fully recover after a week of sobriety is a common misconception that almost always leads to continual abuse.
Common Challenges Associated with Independent Opiate Detoxification
When detoxification is attempted independently (i.e., detox managed without the supervision of medical professionals and drug therapists), the chances of successfully overcoming acute opiate withdrawal are unlikely.
There are many reasons why inpatient detoxification has a much higher percentage of success, but the biggest reason why independent detox individuals fail to make it past AOW is that they cannot overcome the cravings. The first few hours after an individual takes his or her last dose, that’s is when susceptibility is at its highest; with no support, medical assistance or consultation—relapse will usually always win.
Why face detoxification alone?
Many opiate users feel ashamed and embarrassed of their situation, thus avoid third-party assistance. However, making the brave decision to simply ask for help gives you a much greater chance at successful detoxification, and thus, survival.
The combination of cleansing the body from toxins, medically assisted medications and cognitive behavioral therapy, withdrawal symptoms will be much less intense and uncomfortable.
Simply “networking” alone with patients who are enduring the same symptoms as you can be immensely comforting; having the ability to talk with someone going through the exact same thing will motivate you, give you confidence and offer your support to someone else. It’s an immensely powerful opportunity to help console others, and your strength is needed not just in your life, but others as well.
When making the decision to either manage detox alone or with the help of others—the decision should be a relatively easy choice; however, sometimes seeking third-party assistance isn’t a feasible option.
What are your options for detoxing?
There isn’t a standard protocol for detox; there are many options and when you weigh your options carefully, you will be able to find the best method of treatment for you.
Inpatient detox programs:
- Takes place either at a hospital or non-hospital environment such as private housing, luxury facilities, or standard facilities. Inpatient individuals receive around-the-clock care and evaluation. Inpatient services are widely considered the most effective form of treatment due to the inaccessibility of drugs.
Outpatient detox programs:
- Outpatient services vary due to the relative nature of opiate addiction, susceptibility and withdrawal. For individual with short-term use of opiates and/or have mild to moderate withdrawal symptoms, outpatient treatment may be the feasible and constructive method of treatment. This is mainly because outpatient treatment is cheaper and does not overly disrupt everyday life (e.g., work, income, family relations, social life, etc.).
- Rapid detox is an invasive medical procedure used in the combination of general anesthesia and anti-opioid receptor medications.
With the advantage of receiving 24/7 access to medical care and services, inpatient detox programs offer patients struggling with opiate addiction the best chance to successfully overcome withdrawal and relapse. Unlike managing detox independently or in an outpatient program, the decision to enter an inpatient detox program means you always have support whenever it’s needed.
What types of opiate abusers benefit most from inpatient detox?
- Individuals that go cycles of failed detox attempts; history of relapse
- Individuals that have used and/or abused opiates for a prolonged period of time
- Individuals with additional mental conditions and/or alignments such as depression, obsession compulsive disorder, social anxiety, etc.
Inpatient detox programs can occur in either hospital or residential/luxury facilities. The main difference: inpatient detox care provides around-the-clock assistance whereas inpatient residential treatment occurs when medical care providers routinely visit the individual and evaluate the person’s progress/condition.
- Receive around-the-clock professional care and individual treatment
- You are never alone during withdrawal, which may be comforting for patients
- You have a network of individuals battling the same challenge as you; talking and counseling others endure the same battle may be extremely encouraging and help give you a sense of purpose and fulfillment; whether you receive advice or provide, the benefits are similar and can lead to closure and long-term sobriety
- Drug associations such as smells, commercials, certain people, music, time in the day, etc., may become less evident or noticeable in an inpatient setting.
- Access to drugs is limited
- When you’re being monitored and usually have to pay a large some of cash, there is largely sense of responsibility to successfully get through detoxification
- Inpatient treatment puts you on a tangible, structured; you learn hands on skills and tools that you can use once treatment is over
- You don’t have the freedom or ability to “come and go as you please;” inpatient care is focused 100% of successfully completion of detoxification
- You also have less freedoms of life’s mundaneness such as when you get up, what you eat, when you go to bed, what activities and resources are available to you
- Inpatient treatment is a large commitment. Your job, family and love life must be prearranged so you can peacefully focus on your objective: detoxification
Outpatient opiate detox is a common practice in drug addiction treatment that allows you to recover while rehabilitating at home.
Unlike in inpatient detox treatment, outpatient individuals have less access to medical assistance and services. Additionally, proper procedure and analysis of outpatient treatment mandates frequent visitation to your doctor. After further analysis, the drug specialist will determine the next course of action and/or if the current method of treatment is effective or not.
- Less expensive
- Strategically designed so that you’re able to continue everyday life
- Professional treatment services have flexible hours, so you can receive care when convenient with your schedule
- If successfully completed in an outpatient environment, you can take the skills and tools you used to overcome your addiction in everyday life
- More access to friends and family; depending on the person, outpatient treatments means you have more access to friends and family, which be more important than ever during this phase
- You do not have around-the-clock care treatment available such as medically assisted treatment or consultation
- Access to drugs may still be very much available to you; enduring cravings is a very powerful and emotionally draining scenario, and controlling yourself is not easy
- From school to work, family to school—life’s daily norms might still be constantly in way; when you have less time to focus on yourself, you have less of a chance to make a full recovery
- Developing relationship with others enduring similar challenges is less available to you; you might not have too many people to talk with and establishing a network of “soberly-driven” friends is less likely
- If you live with kids, spouses, girlfriends, or roommates—they will be most likely be present as you go through detoxification; due to the uncomfortable and extremely sensitive side effects at hand, you may put others in danger or you may reveal something to them you didn’t want to
- There are more triggers, and if you don’t make serious modifications into your daily life, activities, social group and schedule—detoxification is a less likely scenario
The individual is unconscious during the procedure, and does not experience the immediate side effects of withdrawal. The treatment itself usually only takes a few hours to complete, and is used to cleanse the body of toxins more efficiently and thoroughly. After successful completion, the patient is usually hospitalized for approximately 48 hours.
- Speed of recovery and detoxification
- Less severe withdrawal side effects, making recovery more comfortable and less stressful on body/mind
- The less a patient endures withdrawal, the better he or she is expected to make a full recovery
- There is a chance of death and/or complications that can lead to long-term health consequences
- Rapid detox is expensive and an invasive procedure
- There is a chance the procedure will be ineffective, thus costing you not only a toll of your health, but also your wallet
“Opiate Withdrawal and Detox.” Addiction Center. 14 Mar. 2019. https://www.addictioncenter.com/opiates/withdrawal-detox/
“Opioid Detox.” Rehab Spot. 14 Mar. 2019. https://www.rehabspot.com/detox/opioids/
“Opioids: Addiction, Withdrawal and Recovery.” Addictions and Recovery. 14 Mar. 2019. https://www.addictionsandrecovery.org/opioid-opiate-recovery.htm