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Opium Detox and Withdrawal

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Opium is a substance obtained from the poppy plant. Opium contains morphine and codeine, and it is used to make heroin. Opium has a high potential for abuse and addiction. As a result, there are opium detox centers available to help those experiencing issues with opium addiction. According to SAMHSA, opiates accounted for almost one-fifth (19 percent) of all substance abuse treatment admissions in 2007. If you are, or someone you love is, a possible candidate for an opium detox program, please call to discuss treatment options.

Opium Withdrawal Symptoms

The primary step in opium addiction treatment is detoxification. This is the process by which the body rids itself of the drug. Because addicts are physically dependent on the drug, the body experiences withdrawal symptoms. Users going through opium detox can expect any or all of the following symptoms.

  • Agitation
  • Insomnia
  • Yawning
  • Runny nose
  • Sweating
  • Tremors
  • Hot and cold flashes
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Muscle aches
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Cravings
  • Restlessness
  • Anxiety or panic attacks
  • Malaise
  • Paranoia

These symptoms, although unpleasant, are not usually life-threatening and can be managed under the supervision of a doctor in an opium detox center. These detox centers can provide treatment to alleviate the symptoms or even eliminate them entirely. Each person is unique, so symptoms will vary in intensity and duration. Withdrawal symptoms will generally begin to appear around 12 hours after the last use of the drug and may last for up to a week. There are several medications that can ease the opium withdrawal process.

Medication During Opium Detox

The most commonly prescribed medication for withdrawal symptoms is clonidine. Total daily dosage for the treatment of opiate withdrawal range between 0.5 and 1.4 mg, depending on the severity of symptoms. Clonidine works to lessen the response of the sympathetic nervous system to opium withdrawal. It can decrease or eliminate the general restlessness, sweating and hot and cold flashes that occur during withdrawal. Clonidine also has a mild sedative effect, which can be useful. One of the side effects of clonidine is insomnia, which is also a symptom of opiate withdrawal. Clonidine may exacerbate this symptom in some users, so this drug may not be appropriate for everyone. Clonidine should never be discontinued abruptly, but should be tapered off under the supervision of a doctor.

Suboxone is another commonly prescribed drug at opium withdrawal treatment facilities. Suboxone is a combination of the drugs buprenorphine (a semisynthetic opioid) and naloxone (an opioid antagonist). It is administered either as a tablet or a strip of film placed under the tongue. Suboxone occupies the same opiate nerve receptors as opium and produces a very mild opiate-like effect. This serves to reduce the severity and duration of withdrawal symptoms and often can rid the user of them entirely. If Suboxone is discontinued abruptly, the user will experience the same withdrawal symptoms, so it must be tapered off under the supervision of a doctor. Suboxone may be prescribed in an opium withdrawal treatment facility, or on an outpatient basis from a qualified physician as part of a comprehensive treatment plan. Users may take Suboxone for a short time or for months or even years.

Methadone is another drug useful in opium detox centers. It is a synthetic opioid given as a pill or liquid. Methadone is often given on a long-term basis. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) , notes that, “For methadone maintenance, 12 months of treatment is the minimum, and some opiate-addicted individuals will continue to benefit from methadone maintenance treatment over a period of years.” Although popular, with more than 100,000 people in the United States using methadone as a maintenance treatment, the practice is still controversial. Because of the risk of diversion of the drug to the illicit market, users must go to a clinic to receive their medication. Daily visits are necessary at first, but patient may be allowed larger amounts to take home after several months of adherence to the clinics policies. Methadone also must be tapered off, as sudden discontinuation will result in withdrawal symptoms.

Full Rehabilitative Care

Opium detox is only the first step in opium addiction treatment. Without regular long-term treatment in conjunction with an opium detox center, many users will return to abusing the drug. Treatment may be provided on an inpatient or outpatient basis. Therapy is often recommended on an individual and group basis. Each person is different, and having a treatment plan tailored to each person’s specific situation increases the chances of a good long-term outcome. Support groups such as Narcotics Anonymous can be helpful to many people seeking recovery from an opium addiction. Supportive family and friends also increase the chances of a successful recovery. Addiction is a chronic disease that needs long-term treatment.

Opium addiction treatment is not something to try to do alone. For help with exploring options for treatment, please call .

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The editorial staff of is comprised of addiction content experts from American Addiction Centers. Our editors and medical reviewers have over a decade of cumulative experience in medical content editing and have reviewed thousands of pages for accuracy and relevance. Our reviewers consistently monitor the latest research from SAMHSA, NIDA, and other reputable sources to provide our readers the most accurate content on the web.
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