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American Addiction Centers National Rehabs Directory

Opiate Detox and Withdrawal

Recreational use of opiates is a widespread issue, with use so prevalent that the U.S. National Library of Medicine estimates non-medical usage at least once among 9 percent of Americans. Extended use of opiates often leads to addiction. For those choosing to break this addiction, an opiate detox center is the best option for receiving the necessary treatment and support.

Opiate Withdrawal

OpiateAcute opiate withdrawal occurs when users of opiates suddenly quit taking the drug after an extended period of time or after large doses of opiates are taken on a regular basis. The withdrawal process is a physical reaction as the user’s body begins to lack the amount of opiates that it has become accustomed to having. Withdrawal results in a number of symptoms, with early symptoms beginning shortly after the last dose of opiates is taken, usually within 30 hours. Early symptoms include:

  • Achy muscles
  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety
  • Agitation
  • Tearing of the eyes
  • Excessive yawning
  • Sweating
  • Runny nose

As the withdrawal process progresses, more serious symptoms may occur including:

  • Abdominal cramping
  • Nausea
  • Dilated pupils
  • Goose bumps
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea


Withdrawal from opiate use can be a highly uncomfortable process outside of an opiate detox center, with symptoms often providing the user with an incentive to continue taking the drugs rather than continue to suffer through the effects of detoxification. To prevent this from occurring, the detox center can provide treatment that reduces or eliminates the symptoms of withdrawal completely. For information on the locations of detox centers throughout the country, call to speak to a knowledgeable rehab professional.

“Treatment for opiate withdrawal consists of a combination of medication and behavioral therapy.”Treatment for opiate withdrawal consists of a combination of medication and behavioral therapy. Because of the medications used during the detox process, an initial physical exam is required upon checking into the opiate withdrawal treatment facility. This usually includes a complete physical, urine and blood tests to determine if any other drugs are in the patient’s system, and a medical history to determine any other issues requiring treatment along with the opiate addiction. After the exam, the patient is placed into the opiate detox center for detoxification.

The detoxification process is a medical detox treatment intended to remove all traces of opiates from the patient’s system. While sudden removal will result in withdrawal, an opiate detox program prevents this from occurring by using what’s known as a tapering-off process.

Tapering is a method of addiction treatment where the patient’s opiate of choice is replaced by an alternate opiate that fulfills the needs of the patient’s body for continued opiate use. This alternate opiate does not have the same euphoric effects as the opiate the patient was likely using recreationally. Once introduced into the patient’s system, the new opiate is provided in regular doses by the opiate detox center. Each dose given to the patient is slowly lowered in amount to reduce the overall level of opiates in the patient’s system. The patient’s body adjusts to each new opiate level, detoxifying slowly without beginning the painful withdrawal process.

Once the opiate alternate reaches a low enough level that the symptoms of withdrawal will be reduced significantly with cessation of the drug’s use, the opiate rehab facility stops administering the drug completely. At this point, a 48-hour observation period begins to watch for any withdrawal symptoms or any other medical issues needing treatment that may result from the patient discontinuing use of the drugs. If you have additional questions about the detoxification process, call .


  • Oxycontin is a commonly abused opiate that is often crushed or dissolved in a saline solution for injection in order to change it from a slow-release to quick-release drug.
  • Withdrawal from opiate use shares many of the same symptoms as the common flu virus, only with greater strength.
  • Opiates are one of the world’s oldest drugs with the first known cultivation of the source of opiates, the opium poppy, occurring in 3400 B.C. in Mesopotamia.

Detox Medications

The alternate medications typically used at a detox center are methadone and clonidine. Both medications fulfill the patient’s need for continued opiate use to prevent withdrawal while at the opiate detox center. In addition to fulfilling the opiate need, clonidine also lessons agitation and anxiety within the patient. This allows the patient to begin participating in behavioral therapy while still undergoing the tapering process.

Buprenorphine, naltrexone and Vivitrol are also drugs used in the treatment of opiate withdrawal. Buprenorphine lowers the effects of withdrawal by serving as an opiate replacement. Naltrexone and Vivitrol have the additional effect of preventing the intake of other opiates when in the patient’s system and are used primarily in outpatient treatment centers where the patient is not under 24-hour observation.

Naltrexone works as an opioid antagonist within the patient’s system. Its use blocks any other opiates taken from binding to the opiate receptors in the patient’s system, preventing the euphoric high that the recreational user seeks. A further effect may be the occurrence of physical sickness when an additional opiate is taken. Vivitrol is an injectable form of naltrexone taken to provide 30 days of effective opiate blockage.

Detoxing from opiate use can be a difficult process, but with the aid of an opiate detox center that process doesn’t have to be a painful one. For information concerning opiate addiction or detox centers where treatment is available, call 24 hours a day.

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