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Accelerated Opiate Detox

Dr. Richard Foster, LICDC-CS

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Richard Foster, LICDC-CS

March 1, 2019

Experiencing intense withdrawal symptoms often lead individuals to relapse in order to stop the discomfort. An accelerated opiate detox program can help an individual rid the drugs from their system in as little as seven days, decreasing the likelihood of an early relapse.

Quitting opioids usually leads to painful withdrawals, which if left untreated, can last up to a couple of months. Although opiate withdrawals aren’t deadly, the symptoms can be so severe that a person is more likely to relapse during this time. Detoxification is the period of time that a person is pushing the opiates out of their system… An accelerated detox can help a person get an opiate out of their system in as little as seven days. Detoxification is only the first step to recovery, and by itself doesn’t completely beat an addiction—but it’s a really good start.

Opiate addictions can be pretty serious and can affect people in a myriad of settings. A person can be addicted to opiates after the first time they use them, but they don’t always hit rock bottom as soon as they become dependent. This is the real kicker when it comes to addiction—it can happen to anybody. Sometimes it can be a big surprise finding out that a person you love is addicted to opiates like heroin or prescription drugs.

What Is An Opiate Addiction?

When it comes time to “throw in the towel” and get off opiates for good, the obsession and compulsion of addiction can keep people coming back for more—and the withdrawals can be so bad that quitting can feel like a nightmare. Opiate addiction is a disease, not a moral failing.

Sometimes a detox center is the best way for some people trying to get off opiates to get clean. For most people, when they want to quit a drug, they want to be done with it is as soon as possible. If this is true for you, maybe an accelerated detoxification regimen is right for you.

What Is Accelerated Detoxification?

Detoxification is essentially the opposite of intoxication—one is where a person pushes a drug out of their system, the other is when a person puts the drug into their system.

“Detoxification is a set of interventions aimed at managing acute intoxication and withdrawal. It denotes a clearing of toxins from the body of the patient who is acutely intoxicated and/or dependent on substances of abuse. Detoxification seeks to minimize the physical harm caused by the abuse of substances” (National Center for Biotechnology Information).

Basically, detoxification is the body’s natural way of pushing an unwanted substance out, in this case, opiates. With an accelerated detox program, a person can detox opiates in 3 to 7 days. Detoxification can happen with sugar, alcohol, caffeine, heavy foods, marijuana, and obviously opiates. Withdrawals can also happen during detoxification, and it’s completely unmanaged or “cold turkey” the withdrawals can last a month or more. Sometimes emotional withdrawals (like anxiety) can last for longer than 2 months.

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Will I Be Cured Of Opiate Addiction After Detox?

Generally, detoxification is the first step of recovery, and there are further steps afterward to achieve a balanced, sober lifestyle, and a willingness to change. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “medical detoxification…by itself does little to change long-term drug use… for some individuals, it is a strongly indicated precursor to effective drug addiction treatment.” Detoxification can help a person comfortably deal with the withdrawal symptoms, but as previously stated, it is not a cure-all treatment; although it certainly does help.

What’s The Point Of Detox?

“The aim of detoxification for a dependent opioid user is to eliminate the effects of opioid drugs in a safe and effective manner. Appropriate administration of pharmacological agents plays a crucial role in increasing the likelihood of successful detoxification, while minimizing the discomfort of withdrawal experienced by the service use” (National Institutes of Health).

What Does A Successful Detoxification Include?

There are three components to detoxification from the National Center for Biotechnology Information, where it’s stated that “a detoxification process that does not incorporate all three critical components is considered incomplete and inadequate by the consensus panel.” The three components are:

  • Evaluation – testing for the presence of substances of abuse in the bloodstream, measuring their concentration, and screening for co-occurring mental and physical conditions.
  • Stabilization – the medical and psycho-social processes of assisting the patient through acute intoxication and withdrawal to the attainment of a medically stable, fully supported, substance-free state.
  • Fostering a patient’s entry into treatment – preparing the patient for entry into substance abuse treatment by stressing the importance of following through with the complete substance abuse treatment continuum of care.

So patients who are going to through an accelerated detoxification program will be treated with the previously listed components. They will be taken care of, respected, and proven to that there are people on their side. Successful and healthy detoxification can also include:

  • Abstinence
  • Hydration
  • Nutrients
  • Exercise
  • Other Healthy Habits

A Little More About Opiate Addiction

Opiate addictions can be pretty tough to deal with, and even when a person wants to quit, the withdrawals can be so painful that they can’t bring themselves to kick the habit. Have you ever known a person who’s suffering from an opiate addiction? They might tell you they’re going to quit, but to your surprise, they never do. Each time you see them, they might continue to tell you that they’re going to stop, but the pain is so serious. Sound familiar?

What Is An Opiate Overdose?

Months, even years can go by where a person lives with the daily battle with opiate addiction—perhaps they aren’t exploring all of their options—or perhaps the withdrawals are too intense. The sad truth is that this addiction can kill. As previously mentioned, opiate addiction is a disease. Explained by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: “Opioids are natural or synthetic chemicals that bind to receptors in your brain or body.”

In 2014, more than 28,000 people died from an opioid overdose, and at least half of those deaths involved a prescription opioid. Many more became addicted to prescription and illegal opioids. Heroin-related deaths have also increased sharply, more than tripling since 2010. In 2014, more than 10,500 people died from heroin.

What’s The Difference Between Detoxification And Withdrawals?

When a person quits using a drug, it can take a little bit of time for the drug to be completely out of their system. The act of removing a drug from the system is known as detoxification, and withdrawals are the body’s response to that process. The withdrawals can be better understood by using food as an example. So if a person doesn’t have food, they become hungry—if they go a little longer without it they become irritable, and a little longer they become exhausted.

The same can be said for opiate (or any other) drugs, because after a person becomes hooked on them; as far as the body is concerned, they are as essential for survival as food and water.

Which Opiates Can Cause Withdrawals?

Opioid agonists are the name for drugs that stimulate opioid receptors—these are also referred to as opiates. Opiates are a type of drug most commonly used in medicine to treat chronic pain; but on the street, opiates can be used illegally to get high.

Even in medical cases, people inadvertently become addicted to opioid painkillers simply by taking their required doses. Quitting these drugs usually comes with moderate to severe withdrawals, depending on which type of opiate a person is using, how much of it they use, and how long they have been using it—it can also depend on how powerful the opiates are. Some of the opiate drugs that can cause withdrawals are:

  • Codeine
  • Heroin
  • Hydrocodone (Vicodin)
  • Hydromorphone (Dilaudid)
  • Methadone
  • Meperidine (Demerol)
  • Morphine
  • Oxycodone (Percocet or Oxycontin)

Symptoms Of Opiate Withdrawals

Withdrawals can be moderate to severe depending on a few different variables. A person might not become completely bedridden sick from opiate withdrawals, but for the general public, if you’re addicted to opiates and attempt to quit (whether successful or not) you may experience some sort of withdrawal symptoms. “These symptoms are very uncomfortable, but are not life-threatening. Symptoms usually start within 12 hours of last heroin usage and within 30 hours of last methadone exposure” (U.S. National Library of Medicine).

Early symptoms of withdrawal can include:

  • agitation
  • anxiety
  • muscle aches
  • increased tearing
  • insomnia
  • runny nose
  • sweating
  • yawning

Late symptoms of withdrawal can include:

  • abdominal cramping
  • diarrhea
  • dilated pupils
  • goose bumps
  • nausea
  • vomiting

Can Opiate Withdrawals Be Fatal?

Even though opiate withdrawals can make you feel like you’re going to die, and some of the symptoms can be excruciating, they aren’t deadly. There are some substances, like alcohol, whose withdrawals can kill—but opiates are not one of them. Withdrawals can be so intense that they lead a person back to using; that can kill them.

How Long Do Opiates Stay In Your System?

The amount of time that an opiate stays in your system depends on how much and which type of opiate you’re using. According to the Food and Drug Administration, drugs like heroin can show up on a drug test for up to three days, but the length of time that it takes to detox from specific drugs can vary.

Sometimes opiate withdrawals can last for even longer than three days, and in some cases, (if left untreated) withdrawals can range between one week to one month. Detoxification can help get the “ball rolling” so to speak, and help a person get back to a normal life a little faster.

How Does Detoxification Work?

A lot of chemical detoxifications should be closely monitored by professionals. During this time patients will be put on vitamin regimens, while drinking a lot of water and other fluids, some treatment centers may also employ an IV to help ensure that a patient is getting enough nutrients (especially if that person can’t hold down solid foods during withdrawals), patients will also be encouraged to eat clean and healthy foods. In some cases, accelerated detoxification will use medication-assisted therapy.

Medication-Assisted Detoxification

There are a variety of different medications which can be used for detox. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, these medications can include Methadone, Buprenorphine, Clonidine, and Naltrexone. Here’s a brief description of each:

  • Methadone relieves withdrawal symptoms and helps with detox. It is also used as a long-term maintenance medicine for opioid dependence. After a period of maintenance, the dose may be decreased slowly over a long time…
  • Buprenorphine (Subutex) treats withdrawal from opiates, and it can shorten the length of detox. It may also be used for long-term maintenance, like methadone. Buprenorphine may be combined with Naloxone (Bunavail, Suboxone, Zubsolv), which helps prevent dependence and misuse.
  • Clonidine is used to help reduce anxiety, agitation, muscle aches, sweating, runny nose, and cramping. It does not help reduce cravings.
  • Naltrexone can help prevent relapse. It is available in pill form or as an injection.”
    (U.S. National Library of Medicine)

Cost Of Accelerated Opiate Detox

Detoxification is usually averaged into a full rehab treatment; however, sometimes payments can be assisted by your health insurance company. If not health insurance, sometimes there are government grants or sliding fees to help with payments. All said and done, an opiate detox can cost $600 or more per day. This may seem like a lot of money, but when compared to the alternative of life with addiction or death from overdose, it might not seem so bad.

Opiate Addiction Treatment

If you’re suffering from an addiction to opioids, you’re not alone—there are millions of people with opioid addictions and tens of thousands of people die each year from an overdose from illicit and prescription drug abuse. If you’re weighing out the options and think that an accelerated detox will be in your best interest, you might be right. Accelerated detox can be found at most rehab treatment centers, hospitals, and other clinical settings.

Some of these detox facilities offer inpatient or outpatient treatment, but for the most part, in order for patients to be thoroughly monitored by professionals, detoxification is best handled on-site. Some patients may need to continue with a medication-assisted therapy well after their therapy (sometimes for several months to years). If you are in search of the right kind of treatment for yourself or for a loved one, look no further

Contact us today to learn about accelerated opiate detox and addiction treatment.

National Center for Biotechnology Information - Detoxification and Substance Abuse Treatment

National Center for Biotechnology Information - Essential Concepts, and Definitions in Detoxification

National Institute on Drug Abuse - Medical Detoxification

National Institutes of Health - Pharmacological and Physical Intervention in Opioid Detoxification

U.S. National Library of Medicine - Opiate and Opioid Withdrawal

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