Overcoming opioid dependence isn’t easy, especially if you’re trying to do it on your own.
However, with the right guidance, you can get off opioids for good. The first step of successful opioid recovery usually involves opioid detox.
If you don’t know how to detox from opioids in a way that doesn’t put your health at risk and ensures a smooth and permanent recovery, we’ve got you covered.
In this article, we will cover everything you need to know about how to detox from opioids safely and effectively, including opioid withdrawal symptoms and their timeline, opioid detox methods, outpatient vs. inpatient opioid detox, and more.
What Are Opioids?
Simply put, opioids are drugs that affect the opioid receptors in the central nervous system, thus helping alleviate pain. They are typically prescribed to relieve moderate to severe acute pain (e.g., after an injury or a surgery) or chronic pain, such as that experienced by cancer patients.
Opioids can be classified into three groups:
- Natural opioids, such as morphine, which come from plants
- Semi-synthetic opioids, which are produced by processing natural opioids (e.g., oxycodone, hydromorphone, and hydrocodone)
- Synthetic opioids, which are artificial and therefore devoid of natural opioids (for example, methadone, fentanyl, and tramadol)
Opioid Abuse and Dependency
Although opioids can help relieve pain, they are also highly addictive. That’s because the effects of opioids extend beyond pain relief. Besides stimulating dopamine release, which can induce euphoria, opioids also cause your body to produce fewer endorphins and more opioid receptors.
In turn, you may eventually feel that your usual opioid dose no longer works. This is called opioid tolerance, and it is closely tied to opioid abuse. When the usual opioid dose ceases to relieve pain, some people may choose to increase their opioid dosage or the frequency at which they take opioids.
Eventually, such opioid abuse can result in physical dependence on opioids, which means that a person experiences opioid withdrawal and thus can’t normally function without taking the drug. At worst, opioid dependence may lead to opioid use disorder (OUD), commonly known as opioid addiction.
Some of the most common symptoms of opioid addiction include:
- Opioid cravings
- Using more opioids than prescribed or using them longer or more frequently than instructed
- Inability to control opioid use
- Mood swings, irritability, and depression
- Physical changes, such as weight loss
- Using opioids despite their negative effects on your personal and professional life
Opioid Withdrawal Symptoms
Before we discuss how to detox from opioids, it’s important to address opioid withdrawal, which happens when opioid users reduce the amount of opioids they take or stop taking the drug altogether.
Although each person may experience different symptoms after quitting or reducing opioid use, the most common opioid withdrawal symptoms include the following:
- Opioid cravings
- Hot and cold flashes
- Anxiety and restlessness
- Loss of appetite
- Nausea and vomiting
- Difficulty sleeping
- Body aches
One thing to keep in mind is that abruptly stopping opioid use can increase the likelihood of opioid withdrawal symptoms. Also, the longer you take opioids, the more likely you are to experience these symptoms.
Most importantly, it should be noted that untreated withdrawal symptoms can result in life-threatening health conditions such as heart failure, dehydration, seizures, and others. For this reason, you should never stop or reduce opioid use without medical help.
Opioid Withdrawal Timeline
Like opioid withdrawal symptoms, the withdrawal length differs from one person to another. How long the opioid withdrawal lasts will depend on how long a person has been taking opioids, what type of opioids they used, genetics, and other similar factors.
That said, opioid withdrawal symptoms usually appear between 8 and 30 hours after the last opioid use and last between 4 and 10 days on average.
Now, let’s take a look at a typical opioid withdrawal timeline:
Opioid Withdrawal: Days 1 and 2
Depending on the type of opioids used, early opioid withdrawal symptoms will begin sometime within the first two days after their last dose. These symptoms may include:
- Opioid cravings
- Body aches
- Loss of appetite
- Irritability and anxiety
- Difficulty sleeping
- Panic attacks
- Abdominal cramps
- Runny nose
Opioid Withdrawal: Days 3 to 6
During these days, opioid withdrawal symptoms reach their peak, increasing the chance of relapse. More often than not, the above-mentioned symptoms will be accompanied by:
- Enlarged pupils
- Digestive problems
Opioid Withdrawal: Day 7
Most of the physical opioid withdrawal symptoms usually subside by the end of the first week. However, emotional symptoms—such as depression, anxiety, and irritability—may linger. It’s also not uncommon to experience difficulty sleeping.
How to Detox from Opioids
Opioid detoxification (or detox) refers to the process of removing opioids from the human body. It is the first—and very important—step toward recovering from opioid dependence or addiction.
Since opioid detox induces opioid withdrawals that can be dangerous and difficult to manage, it is not recommended to go through opioid detox without medical supervision.
In medical settings, the opioid detox process usually involves three crucial components:
- Evaluation. At first, the patient is tested for opioids and their concentration in the bloodstream. Their medical history, mental condition, and other factors are also evaluated to determine the appropriate opioid dependence treatment.
- Stabilization. Stabilization involves educating the patient about the treatment and helping them reach an opioid-free state. The opioid detox process may involve tapering off opioids, rapid detox, and other methods.
- Encouraging the patient to complete the treatment. Finally, once the patient has no opioids in their system, they will be encouraged to proceed with and complete the opioid dependence treatment to ensure they make a full recovery.
Opioid Detox Methods
Now that you know more about how to detox from opioids, let’s take a closer look at some of the most common opioid detox methods: tapering off, quitting “cold turkey,” and rapid detox.
Opioid tapering is the process of gradually decreasing the opioid dosage until you’re no longer using opioids. Tapering off opioids allows your body to slowly adjust to smaller opioid dosages, lessening the severity of withdrawal symptoms but not eliminating them. When tapering off opioids, you may experience:
- Mood swings, anxiety, and irritability
- Blood pressure changes
- Increased heart rate
- Flu-like symptoms
When tapering off opioids under medical supervision, your doctor will create a medication tapering schedule to minimize withdrawal symptoms. The length of this schedule will depend on the type of opioids you used and for how long you’ve taken them.
They will also monitor your blood pressure levels, perform urine testing, and take other steps to help you safely get off opioids. Since tapering off opioids at home can damage your body or result in relapse, consulting with a medical professional is an important part of beginning a journey to recovery.
Quitting “cold turkey” is a method of opioid detox where you abruptly stop taking opioids. Although some people think this way of quitting opioids is quicker and easier than other opioid detox methods, this couldn’t be further from the truth.
While quitting “cold turkey” is usually not deadly, it can induce intense opioid withdrawal symptoms. In fact, the term “cold turkey” originated from a common symptom people experience after suddenly stopping substance use—goosebumps. Besides the aforementioned withdrawal symptoms, quitting opioids “cold turkey” may cause:
- Uncontrollable shaking
- Trouble breathing
- Vomiting-induced dehydration
Most importantly, quitting opioids “cold turkey” can be life-threatening. For example, blood pressure changes may cause you to lose consciousness while driving, or severe dehydration may lead to organ failure. Fortunately, studies show that only 17% of Americans regard quitting “cold turkey” as an effective way of detoxing from opioids.
Rapid detox is an anesthesia-assisted opioid detox method that removes opioids from your body within a few days. Usually, this medical procedure involves the use of opioid antagonists, such as naloxone.
Naturally, if you’re looking to detox from opioids quickly, you may be considering rapid detox. It may also seem like an attractive option because it helps reduce the intensity of withdrawal symptoms by putting you under general anesthesia. Still, these symptoms are unavoidable, but having a medical team to help you manage them is one benefit of rapid detox.
Nonetheless, it’s important to note that while most rapid detox programs promise to get you off opioids within 24 hours, this isn’t realistic. More often than not, rapid detox leads to relapse, as it doesn’t treat the biological root cause of opioid dependence—the imbalance in the endorphin-receptor system.
Despite the high price of the procedure, there’s no guarantee that you will successfully achieve and maintain long-term, let alone life-long recovery from opioids by undergoing rapid detox. Worse yet, the procedure comes with considerable risks, including overdose, coma, and death.
Outpatient vs Inpatient Opioid Detox
Opioid detox programs can be carried out in two settings:
- Outpatient, where individuals visit the treatment center daily to receive treatment
- Inpatient, where individuals admit themselves into treatment centers for the duration of the program
Both types of opioid detox programs offer distinct benefits that you should weigh to figure out which option is better for you.
The main advantage of outpatient opioid detox is flexibility. Outpatient opioid detox enables you to receive treatment while spending time with your family at home and continuing with your daily activities, such as work or school.
Meanwhile, the key benefit of inpatient opioid detox programs is 24/7 medical care and support. Being in a controlled environment can help you manage opioid withdrawal symptoms more effectively, thus minimizing the chances of relapse. However, inpatient opioid detox programs are generally more expensive than outpatient ones.
Is Opioid Rapid Detox the Right Choice?
In short, rapid opioid detox is not the right choice if you’re looking to enjoy a full recovery from opioids without putting your health at risk.
As we mentioned above, rapid detox is neither safe nor 100% effective since it doesn’t treat the underlying cause of opioid addiction. While it may work for some patients and can be a better alternative to some other opioid detox methods, such as quitting “cold turkey,” it can have serious side effects and put your life in danger.
So, although rapid detox is not necessarily an “improper” opioid detox method, it is considered an incomplete detox by our standards.
ANR Opioid Dependency Treatment
The ANR Clinic has helped over 24,000 patients in more than 20 countries return to an opioid-free life. So, if you wonder how to detox from opioids safely and effectively, look no further – the ANR treatment is what you’re looking for.
ANR or Accelerated Neuro-Regulation is a revolutionary opioid dependency treatment method that re-regulates your brain to its pre-addiction state.
While other treatments only treat the symptoms of opioid addiction, ANR targets the root cause of opioid dependency by reversing the brain changes caused by opioids. By reducing the production of opioid receptors and increasing the production of endorphins, the ANR treatment allows you to permanently recover from opioids.
Even better – with ANR, you don’t need to spend weeks or months in a rehab facility. The usual hospital stay for ANR treatment is just 36 hours. The process of the treatment involves sedating the patient, inducing withdrawal, and modulating and re-regulating the endorphin receptors to restore the normal function of the brain.
The ANR treatment is carried out by a team of highly experienced medical professionals in an ICU setting. For this reason, this treatment is very safe, even for people with complex medical conditions.
By now, you should know everything about how to detox from opioids safely, effectively, and permanently. If you are struggling with opioid dependence, now you hopefully know what your options are, what to expect, and how to start your recovery journey.
Now, let’s go over the key points mentioned in this article:
- Opioids are addictive drugs with pain-relieving properties used to manage chronic or acute pain.
- Reducing or stopping the use of opioids can induce opioid withdrawal symptoms, such as sweating, hot flashes, anxiety, and others, in opioid-dependent people.
- Opioid detox is the process of eliminating opioids from an individual’s body, which should be done in a medical setting to avoid uncomfortable withdrawals and minimize the risk of relapse.
- The most common opioid detox methods are tapering off, or gradually reducing the opioid dosage, quitting “cold turkey,” and rapid detox.
- The ANR opioid dependency treatment is a modern, safe, and effective approach to recovering from opioid dependence that involves restoring your brain to its pre-addiction state.