You May Have An Idea About Opiate Detoxes From Rehabilitation Programs. However, What Exactly Are They? Do You Need One?

opiate detoxes

In case you personally know someone that has struggled with addiction to opioids or you have struggled with the addiction yourself – you know the problem that comes with withdrawal symptoms. While they are not life threatening (at least not all the time), they are a pain to deal with and can make a person very uncomfortable. In fact, they can get so bad that they derail any efforts you are trying to make towards sobriety.

However, due to rehabilitation programs and facilities offering proper medical assistance in detox initiatives, they are now giving opioid addicts a fighting chance to become sober quickly and safely. Regardless of the opioid you are dealing with – heroin, Fentanyl, OxyContin, morphine, and so on – they are among the most dangerous drugs due to their addictive nature as well as intense highs, and can kill a person if you try to detox without professional medical help.

Why do you need to detox?

The chemistry of opiate drugs is through working on dopamine, a brain chemical that is usually released when you do pleasurable activities or when you are in a happy state. This makes them mimic an intense ‘high’ that is extremely addictive.

However, because the dopamine levels are not increasing naturally, instead spiking up artificially due to these drugs, the brain will adjust its production rate of the hormone over time that compensates for the presence of drugs. This will eventually result in the natural levels of the hormone reducing significantly until they become depleted.

This will manifest in emotional and psychological changes that are more drastic and intense than ever, as long as the drug is not in your system. The brain senses automatically that there is low drug levels due to chemical imbalances – and that will lead top very strong cravings for the drug. Other changes such as the onset of depression, paranoia and anxiety are heroin side effects as well, since the brain lacks mood-enhancing chemicals.

Factors involved in detoxes

Tolerance level

Tolerance level

Opiate drugs tend to cause higher tolerance levels in their users, especially chronic users. That basically means that a user needs higher amounts of the drug each time in order to get the pleasurable ‘high’ they are looking for. However, the higher amounts you use, the greater your chances of dying from an opiate overdose – a possibility that is not too far-fetched.

The other unfortunate thing is the physical side effects are still present, even if your tolerance is high. Higher tolerance levels will present greater challenges during detox, and these include very intense and sharp cravings, high overdose risks when relapses occur, and enduring cravings.

Use of multiple drugs

Users of opiate drugs will tend to use them together with other drugs, instead of opiates in isolation. They tend to use mostly stimulants like cocaine or amphetamines, since opiates have a more relaxing effect.

The problem is the health risks each drug presents, and the withdrawal symptoms are usually distinct and conflicting, making it more dangerous to try detoxing without professional help, according to a 2006 study form the University of Oslo. 

Issues with pain management

pain management

Opiate addiction does not normally begin with the strong drugs, but rather through painkillers that doctors prescribe to deal with pain management arising from injuries, chronic conditions, or surgery. This results in addicts relying on them for managing pain, mostly through self-medication – and it leads to the use of harder drugs.

The professional rehab setting will give alternative techniques of managing pain from withdrawal symptoms or other painful side effects, as well as non-addictive alternatives that will ensure wellness and comfort during healing.

Presence of co-occurring disorders

The presence of mental disorders is a major factor in opiate abuse, since many of the patients who suffer from such will turn to self-medication. The drugs will act as a psychological, emotional or mental escape for them, and they end up relying on them for their stability.

However, research proves that concurrent treatments result in some of the best rates of success for individuals who struggle with mental health problems due to drug addiction. The staff and professional medical care helps one to achieve healing from both addictions and psychological challenges. 

The severity of withdrawal signs

Since the body is attempting to adjust to a drug-free environment, it will exhibit symptoms of withdrawal. This is a major reason that makes medical care during detoxification critical, especially when the individual has been in the throes of drug addiction for a long time, or they suffer from other issues that are psychological or physical.

The withdrawal symptoms will not be of the same intensity in every person, so the medical attention that each person gets will be dependent on the severity and symptom count, as well as the drugs the person uses and the recovery facility itself.

Types of detoxes


These are mostly through herbal remedies as well as non-addictive prescriptions to aid in detox. They seek to help the body achieve withdrawal without having to resort to unnecessary medications.

In any case, natural detox facilities will still oversee the process, and proponents of the method suggest that the method is a good way of stopping future relapses from occurring.

Medically supervised

This happens through supervision from medical professionals. This allows them to examine their patients for any sign of withdrawal, ensure correct hydration, and be able to act early enough in case of any emergency.



This may sound similar to medically supervised detox, but they are not the same. The difference lies in the intense monitoring level, much more than the other detox types.

The medical professionals will prescribe target medication that aims to reduce withdrawal symptoms and cravings. The prescriptions themselves have high potential for addiction, so the use is within very strict limits and supervision is very tight.

 Final thoughts

The first step to wellness after suffering an opiate addiction is going through detox. The good news is detox methods today are supported by extensive medical research, allowing the body to return to normal and get back its physical strength, all depending on your medical status and needs.

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