Addiction Treatment
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Understanding the Opiate Detox Process

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Medically reviewed: 02/27/2019
Last updated: 05/13/2019
Author: Medical Review

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Going through the opiate detox process can sound scary at first, but it is the first step in the recovery journey for opiates. Doing the treatment under the supervision of trained professionals, is a safe way to begin the removal of opiates from the body.

If you or someone you care about feels all alone or guilty about having to be admitted for opiate detox, you should not. Deciding to begin the process is the right thing to do, and shows that you or the person addicted to opiates is ready to change for the better.  It is the beginning for a healthier lifestyle, and it can be done.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, admissions for opiates increased from 2 percent in 2001 to 10 percent in 2011, aged 12 and older.

Understanding the Withdrawal Symptoms from Opiate Detox

Opiate Detox

Opiate detox can be painful, but you can get through it and overcome your dependence.

In the beginning of the detoxification treatment of opiates, since the body is no longer receiving the drug, the symptoms that are brought about from withdrawal can seem unbearable. The withdrawal responses are both physical and psychological.

While the opiate detox process is eliminating the opiates from your body, the opiate withdrawal is a response to the detoxification process. It can produce symptoms that can be painful, and hard to understand. Being aware of what to expect can help you cope better. Also, medication can be used to ease the withdrawal symptoms of opiate detox.

What are the Common Symptoms of Withdrawal from Opiate Detox?

  • Anxiety
  • Convulsions
  • Diarrhea
  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Muscle pain
  • Tremors
  • Vomiting

The symptoms of withdrawal from opiate detox are not limited to the ones mentioned above. They can vary from one person to the next. The withdrawal stages occurs in two phases known as the acute withdrawal phase, and the post acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS).

During the acute phase, the withdrawal symptoms from opiate detox are mostly physical in nature, such as nausea, diarrhea, restless leg syndrome or flu-like symptoms.

The withdrawal symptoms from the post-acute phase are mostly psychological and affect emotions, and mental functions such as depression, anxiety, irritability or insomnia.

In some instances, a timeline for the symptoms is used to distinguish the symptoms from these two phases to know which ones commonly occur, and how long they may last. Most addicts experience 3 stages of withdrawal symptoms, from unbearable pain in the beginning to mainly manageable symptoms towards the end.

What are the Stages in the Withdrawal Timeline for Opiate Detox?

Here are the symptoms you or someone you care about may experience during treatment:

Stage 1

This period of symptoms can begin about 12-24 hours after the last use of opiate. The symptoms can top at the 3-day mark, and last about 5 days in total. During this time period symptoms can include:

  • Cramps in the abdomen
  • Diarrhea
  • Sleeplessness
  • Vomiting

Stage 2

Your body is working on getting out all the opiate, and begins to balance endorphin levels in your brain back to normal. This period can last about two weeks and include these symptoms:

  • Chills
  • Depression
  • Leg cramps

Stage 3

At this stage, symptoms will be milder, and are more psychological than they are physical. The symptoms can last up to two months and include:

  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Restlessness
  • Insomnia

According to Harvard Health Publications, withdrawal symptoms such as agitation; anxiety; tremors; muscle aches; hot and cold flashes; sometimes nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, are not life threatening but they can be extremely uncomfortable.

Each person’s symptoms can vary depending on the severity of the addiction. It is not an easy process to begin, but as part of the treatment to stop the addiction, doing an opiate detox is the first step in getting your life back to normal and feel healthy again.