Opioid Withdrawal & Detox

Man struggling with detox symptoms

Opioids are a class of drugs also known as narcotics. Opioids include prescription pain medications such as hydrocodone and codeine. This drug class also includes heroin. Opioids can be synthetic, semi-synthetic or naturally derived from opium. They’re used in medicine to help relieve pain, but they have a high abuse and addiction potential as well.

Opioid Withdrawal

Opioids work by binding to opioid receptors in the central nervous system. When this happens, the opioids activate these receptors and change a person’s emotional response to pain and how pain signals are transmitted. At the same time, opioids can also trigger a flood of dopamine into the brain, which can cause a euphoric high. When a person’s brain is repeatedly exposed to the effects of opioids, they can become addicted. Most opioids are schedule II, controlled substances in the U.S., which indicates their significant abuse potential.

Opioid addiction is a chronic diagnosable disorder with a specific set of withdrawal symptoms. For example, someone addicted to opiates might continue to use them even when there are adverse side effects because of that use. Dependence often comes along with addiction, although they two don’t have to occur together. With dependence, someone who is using opioids will go through opioid withdrawal symptoms if they try to stop suddenly. Because of the dependence potential, even if someone is using opioids exactly as prescribed, their doctor may have them taper down their dosage gradually rather than stopping suddenly.

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The severity and specific symptoms of opioid withdrawal can vary depending on the person and their extent of use. For example, if someone has been using opioids for only a short time and as prescribed, they might have some mild symptoms of opioid withdrawal. If someone has been using opioids for a long time or frequently abuses them, their symptoms of opioid withdrawal might be severe and require medical treatment.

Opioid Withdrawal Symptoms

Some of the earlier symptoms of opioid withdrawal can include:

  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Muscle aches
  • Teary eyes
  • a runny nose
  • Sleep disturbances and insomnia
  • Sweating
  • Yawning

Later symptoms of withdrawal from opioids can consist of:

  • Abdominal cramps
  • Diarrhea
  • Dilated pupils
  • Goosebumps
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

The symptoms of opioid withdrawal can be uncomfortable, but someone has to detox before they can begin addiction treatment fully.. Typically, opiate withdrawal isn’t life-threatening, but complications can arise without medical care. Some people can go through opioid withdrawal at home, but this may require the use of medicine and a strong support system. Going through opioid withdrawal in this way is the most difficult. Someone can follow an outpatient protocol for opioid withdrawal, or they can go to a drug detox facility and check in on an inpatient basis.

Opioid Detox in Orlando

A medical detox facility is a rehab center where someone can go through opioid withdrawal in a safe, comfortable environment. Some medicines are approved for use during opioid withdrawal that can be provided to patients. There are also medicines that may not be specifically for opioid withdrawal, but they can be used to treat symptoms as they arise. Medications that may be used during an opioid detox include:

  • Methadone: This is a medication that can be used to reduce withdrawal symptoms. It’s sometimes a long-term opioid maintenance drug, and some people do end up staying on it for years, so its use is somewhat controversial.
  • Buprenorphine: This is a prescription drug that can treat opioid withdrawal and shorten the opioid withdrawal timeline. Buprenorphine is sometimes used as a long-term opioid maintenance therapy like methadone.
  • Clonidine: This is a drug that can be used to treat many of the general symptoms of opioid withdrawal, and it’s used for other types of substance withdrawal as well. Clonidine might help with anxiety, agitation, cramping, runny nose, and Clonidine won’t reduce opioid cravings.
  • Naltrexone: This drug can be used once opioids have left someone’s system. It can prevent a relapse because if someone relapses while on it, they will experience severe and sudden opioid withdrawal.
  • Lucemyra: A drug called lucemyra was recently approved to help with opioid withdrawal symptoms. It can lessen the severity of symptoms and its approved for use for up to 14 days.

Opioid Detox Timeline

Just as the severity of opioid symptoms can vary depending on the person and their history with opioids, so can the detox timeline. People often wonder how long does opioid withdrawal last. Some factors that determine how long it might last include:

  • The type of opioids used: longer-acting opioids may have longer withdrawal timelines.
  • The specifics of drug usage: This includes the dosage someone was regularly using, how often they were using it and how long they’d been using it.
  • Other drug use issues: including whether a person is using any other substances at the same time as opioids.

While there are variances, for most people, the initial phase of opioid withdrawal will begin anywhere from six to 24 hours after the last dose of the drug is used. During the first day or two, someone will experience the early-stage symptoms of opioid withdrawal. For example, they may start to experience anxiety, teary eyes and a runny nose. Then, around day three many people may begin to see more severe opioid withdrawal symptoms. For example, they may have more pain, diarrhea, and sleep disturbances. The anxiety may worsen, and some people may have panic attacks.

Between days three and five, many people will see symptoms start to get better. They may still have some mild symptoms, but by this time the worst is over. Most individuals going through detox from opioids will find that their symptoms are significantly better within the first week.

Beyond this, some people may have ongoing symptoms that linger for weeks or months. These are usually emotional and psychological and are the result of the changes opioids make to neurotransmitters. For example, it may take time for the brain to recover and experience pleasure in a normal way once again.

If you or your loved one struggles with opioid addiction, opioid treatment is available at Orlando Recovery Center. Representatives are available to take your call, answer your questions and guide you toward a treatment program that meets your needs.

Medical Disclaimer: Orlando Recovery Center aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.