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What is Opioid Detox Like?

Opioids are among the most addictive substances that people abuse. Many people die each year from opioid overdose. In 2015, the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) revealed statistics showing that around 20,101 people died due to an overdose on prescription pain killers. For those people who are thinking of cutting down or stopping opioid abuse, they may ask the question, “What is opioid detox like?” In this article, we will look at what detox from opioids involves and the opioid withdrawal symptoms timeline.

3 Minute Read | Published Oct 02 2023 | Updated Mar 05 2024 Expert Verified
Emma Collins
Written by
Ashley Bayliss
Reviewed by
Emma Collins
Written by
Ashley Bayliss
Reviewed by

Drug Withdrawal Symptoms – What is Opioid Detox Like?

What are Opioids?

Prescription pain relievers given to people who have severe pain are known as opioids. They are synthetic versions of street drugs such as heroin, created as an effective way to deal with pain. While they have medical benefits, people tend to also misuse them for their other properties. In higher doses, the drug can create a feeling of happiness and reward. This “high” that opioids can create is what initially causes the abuse.

Opioids are also physically addictive. As the person continues to abuse the substance, their brain chemistry changes to try and counteract the excessive dopamine and serotonin present. This leads to a reduced production of the brains natural levels of the chemicals. Eventually, the addict is unable to feel joy without taking opioids, and withdrawal symptoms set in.

What is Opioid Detox Like?

The simple answer for those who ask, “What is opioid detox like?” is that is the worst flu-like symptoms that a person can experience, and without a medical detox at a rehab, it can be hellish to deal with. Withdrawal symptoms can be affected by the amount of opioids used, how frequently the person used them and for how long the addiction lasted. Each person may also experience slightly different withdrawal symptoms during detox from opioids. To really answer the question, “what is opioid detox like?” we must look at the withdrawal symptoms that are commonly felt. Additionally, the opioid withdrawal symptoms timeline is shown.

Early symptoms can begin as early as six hours from the last use and continue for around 30 hours. They include:

  • Muscle aching
  • Excessive tearing
  • Trouble staying asleep and insomnia
  • Agitation
  • Runny nose
  • Elevated heart rate
  • Hypertension
  • Sweating
  • Fever
  • Anxiety

The peak of the later symptoms is around 72 hours. It can last for around a week. They are as follows:

  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach pains and cramps
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Severe depression
  • Cravings

Another risk factor during detox is suicide due to the chemical imbalance in the brain. Supervision is advised. Some of the psychological symptoms such as depression can last for weeks. Therapy and medications are often used to help the patient deal with it.


A medical detox is the best way to handle the many withdrawal symptoms from opioid abuse. In this treatment, a patient can have medications to help them cope. Some medications can be given to slowly wean the person off their addiction. Other medication is then given to stop relapse by blocking the effects of opioids, including heroin and other street opiates.

Therapy such as cognitive behavioral therapy can be successful at treating a patient. Through this and similar therapies, the patient can better understand their triggers and how to manage their stress. Alternative methods of treatment such as music therapy can also give the individual new outlets for tension.

Post-treatment support groups and sober living environments are in place to help people who have come out of intensive therapy. Through the aftercare services, the person can adjust to a normal way of life in a safe, support atmosphere. Help for an addiction to opioids is just a phone call or email away. Contact the Better Addiction Care services to discover rehab centers near you by calling (800) 429-7690.


bullet American Society of Addiction Medicine
"Opioid Addiction 2016 Facts & Figures"
Retrieved on September 25, 2017
bullet National Institute on Drug Abuse
"Effective Treatments for Opioid Addiction"
Retrieved on September 25, 2017

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