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Opioid Detox

Opioid detox is a specific type of treatment that is necessary to help with opioid dependence. It can often be the first step in opioid addiction treatment. There are many options to consider when choosing an opioid detox treatment.

For help choosing the best detox program for your needs, call 800-466-0354 ( Who Answers?)

What is Opioid Detox?

According to the NIDA, the detoxification stage of treatment is when patients “undergo withdrawal symptoms, which may be severe” after quitting opioids. Put another way, it is the stage of treatment in which patients are taken off or weaned off opioid drugs to help end their dependence on them.

Opioid detox is often necessary as patients who become dependent on opioid drugs experience painful withdrawal symptoms and, sometimes, intense cravings. Those who become addicted to opioids may start with detox, but opioid detox will not cure or actually help the addiction itself. This stage of treatment is meant to deal with dependence.

Those who are dependent on opioids will experience some withdrawal symptoms even in detox, although medically-assisted detox can help to limit them. These symptoms, according to the NLM, are:

Opioid Detox

Nausea and agitation are common during opioid detox.

  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Muscle and bone pain
  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Sweating
  • Tearing
  • Chills with goose bumps
  • “Abdominal cramping”

“Symptoms usually start within 12 hours of last heroin usage and within 30 hours of last methadone exposure” so it is important to get the dependent person into detox as soon as possible.

Who Needs Opioid Detox?

Anyone who is dependent on opioids may need opioid detox. Depending on the severity of the issue, the presence of abuse and/or addiction, and the patient’s support system at home, different types of opioid detox may be necessary. Some patients may be able to taper off their medications slowly with the help of their doctors. Others may need to go to a separate detox facility.

Types of Detox Facilities

Detox facilities are often necessary for patients who need to withdraw from opioids. Sometimes, just visiting your doctor to taper off the medication is not enough. Detox facilities are either inpatient or outpatient facilities.

  • Inpatient facilities consist of around-the-clock care for patients who have severe dependence on opioids. This may be especially necessary for someone who is also battling addiction. Inpatient facilities allow patients to get away from their lives and focus on their detox from opioids.
  • Outpatient facilities allow patients to come in and receive their medication or treatments before going home at night. Often, these visits take only an hour or so every day, but sometimes, patients stay all day for therapy and other treatments. They are not 24-hour facilities and, therefore, usually cost less than inpatient facilities.

Different patients may need one type of facility or the other. Do you need to be home at night with your children, and is your dependence on opioids less severe? Then you may want to receive treatment from an outpatient detox facility. Are you in need of a controlled environment and around-the-clock care? Perhaps you are addicted to opioids and need to prepare for a more intense addiction treatment. Maybe inpatient detox would be best for you.

However, many patients do see their doctors for their detox plans. They are usually patients who became dependent on opioids for pain and now wish to stop. Most doctors have a steady detox plan for this scenario.

Tapering Off Opioids

One way doctors help patients through detox is by slowing tapering off their opioid medication. The CNCP states “a decrease by 10% of the original dose per week

is usually well tolerated with minimal physiological adverse effects.” Some patients, however, can be weaned off the drug more quickly. It all depends on the patient.

Some detox facilities do this as well, but there are also medications that are used to curb withdrawal symptoms and help patients through detox. Some doctors are able to prescribe them to patients as well.

Opioid Withdrawal

Medications Used in Detox

Two of the main types of medications used in opioid detox are:


  • Buprenorphine is a relatively newly approved medication for opioid detox.
  • It is an opioid partial agonist meaning that it is an opioid “and thus can produce typical opioid agonist effects and side effects.” (SAMHSA)
  • However, “its maximal effects are less than those of full agonists like heroin and methadone.”
  • Low doses of buprenorphine allow patients to stop taking opioids without experiencing strong withdrawal symptoms.


  • Methadone has existed as a detox treatment drug since the 1960s, used in methadone maintenance treatment for heroin and other opioid addicts.
  • It is often used for those who are addicted to opioids and it is usually a long-term treatment option.
  • Methadone is a synthetic opioid and, when dosed correctly, it “does not cause euphoria or intoxication itself” (CDC). Therefore, it can be taken every day to curb withdrawal symptoms and cravings for opioids.

Detox is Not Always the End

Opioid detox is not just about medications that control withdrawal symptoms and keep them at bay. Many detox clinics encourage patients to attend therapy sessions, and for some, it is mandatory. Patients who are addicted to opioids cannot be cured by opioid detox, and even addiction treatment is a long process that still ends with a long recovery. Many patients fight their addictions for a long time after treatment is over. Because of this opioid detox works to smooth the transition into opioid addiction treatment.

As stated by the NIDA, “too often, addiction goes untreated.” Patients who come out of detox often believe they are fully cured of their addictions and do not realize how vulnerable they are. Therefore, those who need opioid addiction treatment as well should attend detox clinics that provide one or some of these options:

  • Behavioral therapy
    Which allows patients to recognize their cravings and triggers and find ways to fight them
  • Family or relationship therapy
    To help patients fix relationships which may have gone awry due to drug dependence and addiction
  • Group therapy
    Where patients can meet other people who are struggling with the same issues
  • Mutual-help groups
    Like Narcotics Anonymous or others
  • Vocational therapy
    To help patients rebuild their careers and lives after addiction and dependence

Opioid detox is necessary for those who are dependent on opioids, and it is a solid first step on the road to recovery for opioid addicts. Consider your needs and choose a detox plan that is right for you.

We can help you find a detox program that fits your needs and budget; call 800-466-0354 ( Who Answers?) today!

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