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How to Detox From Opiates

Overcoming Opiate Addiction

From prescription painkillers to common street drugs, opiate addictions are ravaging our nation. People often use the term “opiate” interchangeably with “opioids,” which are drugs that either derive naturally from opium or emulate its effects synthetically. However, you may know these drugs by other names — morphine, methadone, codeine and heroin.

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Although there are legitimate medical uses for opiates, especially in the treatment of chronic pain, all opiate medications carry the risk of dependence and addiction if misused. Tens of millions of people abuse these substances around the world. So, if you find you have an out-of-control opiate addiction, you are not alone. The first step to quitting is to locate a medically monitored detox program where you can get the drugs out of your system with safe supervision, such as what you find at Diamond House Detox.

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What Causes Opiate Withdrawal?

Taking opiates for a few weeks or more results in tolerance, regardless of whether the user received a legitimate medical prescription or obtained drugs illegally. Tolerance is the term for the body becoming desensitized to the effects of a substance. People with higher tolerances require escalating amounts of the drug to produce the same high over time. The longer you abuse opiates, the greater your tolerance grows and the higher your risk of an accidental overdose becomes.

Tolerance develops because long-term use of opiates alters how specific receptors work in the brain. Over time, these receptors come to rely on opiates to function normally, and removing opiates from the system leads to chemical imbalances that produce severe physical symptoms called withdrawal.

What Does Opiate Withdrawal Feel Like?

Opiate withdrawal symptoms feel excruciating, even when someone has only recently developed an opiate addiction. Although the uncomfortable symptoms of withdrawal may differ due to a variety of factors, the opiate withdrawal timeline typically includes three phases.

The onset of withdrawal symptoms depends mainly on whether you are withdrawing from a short-acting opiate like heroin or a long-acting opiate like an extended-release prescription painkiller. Those withdrawing from a short-acting opiate usually start experiencing symptoms six to 12 hours after stopping use, and those withdrawing from long-acting opiates start feeling symptoms between 12 and 30 hours after cessation. The issues to expect in this phase include:

  • Excessive tearing up
  • Sweating
  • Runny nose
  • Anxiety
  • Fever
  • Racing heartbeat
  • Loss of appetite
  • Insomnia
  • High blood pressure
  • Pain in muscles, joints and bones

These symptoms grow in intensity until the user reaches the peak period.

For most people, withdrawal symptoms are at their worst around 72 hours after last using the opiate of abuse. The symptoms typically plateau, and can remain at the same level of intensity for up to five days. People often describe withdrawal symptoms as being like a severe case of the flu, and one issue to watch out for is dehydration. Lack of appetite is also a problem that can lead to malnutrition, making recovery more difficult in an unsupervised situation. Other opiate withdrawal symptoms at this stage include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Diarrhea
  • Depression
  • Goosebumps and chills
  • Intense drug cravings

This second phase is intensely painful, with the symptoms being more than enough to cause people to relapse immediately. Keeping symptoms under control during this period is critical to eliminating opiates from the system and begin working on recovery.

After the first five to seven days, many of the physical symptoms of withdrawal start declining. However, emotional and psychological symptoms tend to persist for weeks afterward. Protracted withdrawal, often called post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS), is the name for the set of symptoms that lingers after the acute phases of opiate withdrawal are over. Common symptoms of PAWS include:

  • Irritability
  • Anxiety or panic
  • Depressed mood
  • Difficulty maintaining relationships
  • Apathy
  • Disturbed sleep patterns
  • Increased reactivity to stress

PAWS may also lead to struggles with cognitive tasks. Learning, solving problems and memorizing things can be challenging. These symptoms typically come and go somewhat unpredictably in the months after withdrawing from opiates.

What Is Medical Detox?

Now that you understand how severe opiate withdrawal symptoms are, you can see why trying to quit cold turkey is a dangerous plan. Attempting to stop opiates at home only results in heightened symptoms that can be hazardous to your overall health. Stopping opiates suddenly and without support or supervision also drastically increases the chance of immediate relapse.

Medically supervised detoxification involves staying at a detox center for the duration of your withdrawal from opiates. You will receive around-the-clock care designed to minimize the opiate withdrawal symptoms you feel and ensure you receive all the fluids and nutrients you need to remain healthy throughout the process. Medical detox also involves the use of medications like anticonvulsants, antidepressants and others as needed.

Medical detox includes psychological support that can help process the many feelings people have when getting clean, which provides a much stronger foundation for recovery than detox alone.

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What Does Detoxing From Opiates Entail?

  1. Evaluation Upon Check-In
  2. Personalized Treatment
  3. Finding Follow-Up Treatment

Long-term abuse and addiction to opiates is hazardous to both your physical and mental health, let alone the impact it can have on your personal and professional life. When you go to a professional opiate detox center, you’re allowing the opiates to work their way out of your system so you can quit the drug. However, many people are afraid of detoxification because it involves withdrawal symptoms.

As you become dependent on opiates, quitting them produces distressing effects. That’s why it’s essential to seek out a medically supervised detox like what we provide. Not only do we give 24-hour-a-day monitoring to ensure your safety during the process, but we also have methods to mitigate the effects of withdrawal. We make sure you feel cared for and supported throughout the entire detox. Here are some things you can expect if you’ve never gone through detox before.

When you arrive, we must understand your condition, so we can create a plan of action to help you through detox. We’ll begin with an evaluation given by either a psychiatrist or a psychiatric nurse practitioner. It will determine your level of addiction and where you are in the withdrawal process, as well as assess your mental health.

Many patients struggle with co-occurring disorders, which are psychiatric symptoms covered up by addiction. In this case, we would provide dual-diagnosis treatment. During your evaluation, we will be able to ascertain if you fall into this category and thus come up with an individualized treatment plan.

During your time with us, we will establish an individualized opiate detox program to help make you comfortable and get you on the road to recovery. Your plan may include medications for any mental health conditions we find or therapy sessions to address problem areas that contributed to your addiction.

After years of addiction treatment, we understand that no two people are the same, so we personalize every detox program to meet each individual’s needs and goals. However, the chief priority is seeing you through the withdrawal process so you can get opiates out of your system. Everyone is different, which means that there is no guaranteed timeline for completion of detox. However, most find that their withdrawal symptoms fade within three weeks.

Without follow-up treatment after detox, many patients relapse and slip back into opiate addiction. That’s why we encourage our guests to find some sort of care after their time with us, which could include addiction meetings, counseling or rehab. These programs help you identify the stressors that led to addiction and give you strategies to overcome future temptation.

Next Steps After Detox

For medical detox to result in successful recovery, you must follow it with comprehensive treatment that addresses the psychological elements of sobriety.

Going right back home after completing a detox program lowers the chances of success in recovery. To stay sober, you must avoid falling into old habits and patterns of behavior that led to addiction, and a residential stabilization program can help you prepare for navigating recovery. A stabilization program will help address any underlying mental health issues that may affect your recovery, and provide you with a structured transition period to prepare you for the challenges of independent living.

True recovery only happens when you understand the root causes of your addiction and can take action to change your thoughts and behaviors. Those participating in addiction treatment programs build these skills through therapy. Any quality treatment program will offer multiple types of therapy. At Diamond House Detox, these are three of our many options.

  • EMDR: Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy uses repeated eye movements and discussions of past traumatic events to help people change the way they react to memories of the event.
  • CBT: Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) teaches participants to identify illogical, unhelpful patterns of thinking and change them to produce positive behaviors that support recovery.
  • Trauma therapy: Addiction is frequently a result of trauma, so therapy that puts traumatic experiences at the center of healing can be highly beneficial to the recovery process.

These and other types of therapy, such as group or art therapy, are common in combination to help participants build resilience in recovery. Some therapies work better than others for each individual, so it’s crucial to find a program that will personalize your therapy schedule to accommodate what works best for you.

Shame and guilt are typical emotions as people work through treatment programs and return to their normal lives afterward. One way to help alleviate these feelings and prevent isolation is to join one or more recovery support groups. While everyone’s experience with opiate addiction and recovery is unique, people working hard to stay sober can benefit from the social support of others in recovery.

Support groups help build genuine connections and possibly even long-term friendships. They allow you to speak freely about your journey without the worry of judgment, and can be a source of encouragement. You can even pick up tips and strategies on things like coping with cravings, while learning missteps to avoid. Crucially, support groups also create greater accountability, acting as one level of safeguarding against relapse.

Allow Diamond House Detox to Work With You

Detox is never something you should do alone. It involves unpleasant withdrawal symptoms that cause many to give up and relapse back into drug use. It’s also a dangerous process because the symptoms affect many aspects of your mental and physical health.

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At Diamond House Detox, we provide a comfortable environment where you can go through detox in safety. Our Northern California facilities offer luxurious rooms to allow patients the privacy that will help in the recovery process. If you’re ready to get clean from opiates, contact us today.

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