5 Things to Know Before Detoxing from Opiates

Written by Chloe Nicosia

Know what to plan for before detoxing from opiates to successfully maintain your sobriety.

If you are thinking about detoxing from opiates once and for all, you are not alone and there is help available that is effective in getting you on the path to recovery. While detoxing from opiates can be difficult, it is the first step toward living a sober life. The detox process can be made easier to tolerate as well as safer for patients who are under the care and supervision of a specialized medical professionals at an inpatient drug rehab treatment facility. Here are five things to know before starting the withdrawal process that will enable you to maximize the opportunity to remain clean once you have completed the detox stage:

  • Know what happens next. After you finish detoxing from opiates, your chances of remaining sober without a plan in place to participate in a rehabilitation treatment program are very slim. Explore inpatient and outpatient drug rehabilitation programs and choose one that you can immediately transition into after completing detox so that you can maintain your sobriety.
  • How long does opiate withdrawal last? Consult with your family physician or an addiction specialist to discuss your addiction and estimate what your opiate withdrawal symptoms timeline will look like. Depending on the scope of addiction, the length and intensity of withdrawal is different for everyone. Become familiar with the stages of withdrawal, which are explained below, so you will know what to expect.
  • Discuss with your doctor or your chosen drug rehabilitation treatment facility how detoxing from opiates may affect any other existing physical or mental health conditions you have. Choosing a medically assisted detox from opiates may be wise if you have underlying medical issues that may be exacerbated during the treatment process.
  • Understand the long-term ways your body and brain will be impacted from your addiction, even after you have completed treatment. Having an awareness of what is taking place in your mind and body can assist you in coping with these changes and will make staying focused on sobriety easier.
  • Plan how you will work to remain sober after treatment. While the rehab treatment facility staff will help you arrange ongoing therapy and aftercare support upon completion of treatment, you will have to be prepared to make some serious changes to your life before you return to it. These changes may include repairing some relationships as well as severing some, possibly relocating your primary residence, or even changing your job.  These changes may be necessary to sustain recovery. Your recovery must take precedence over all other aspects of your life going forward once you become sober.

How long does opiate withdrawal last? While the duration of detox is different for everyone, there is as approximate guideline, or opiate withdrawal symptoms timeline that is a general indicator of what to expect when someone is detoxing from opiates:

  • There are two stages of opiate withdrawal. The first stage is known as the acute stage. This stage can last a few weeks. During this period, intense physical withdrawal symptoms are experienced that include runny nose, excessive sweating, insomnia, anxiety, irritability, aching pain, extreme body temperature fluctuations, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
  • The second stage of withdrawal is known as the post acute phase. This phase has less physical symptoms but typically include more emotional, psychological, and even cognitive symptoms. Changes to brain chemistry are slowly returning to normal during this stage, and as a result chemicals in the brain fluctuate before reaching an equilibrium. Symptoms during this stage include mood swings, decreased energy, sleep disturbances, anxiety and irritability.

According to Medline Plus, an information site that is part of the National Institutes of Health, anyone going through detox for opiates should be evaluated for depression and other mental illnesses. Treating these disorders can significantly reduce the risk of relapse. Antidepressants are often used in conjunction with other therapies that aid in a patient’s recovery. To learn more about detoxification from opiates and information about opiate addiction, visit: American Society of Addiction Medicine.