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Opiate Detox

The opiate problem in the United States has shown no evidence of slowing down.  In fact, during the virus pandemic, opiate use showed a substantial increase.  Stress, fear, and isolation during the lockdowns contributed to the increased use of opiates, alcohol, and other drugs.   Since the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2020, opioid or opiate-related deaths made up 75% of the 88,295 fatal overdoses.  

Many of those deaths could have been prevented with opiate detox and a professional addiction treatment program.

What is Opiate Detox?

Opiate detox is generally the same as opioid detox. However, they are not the same substances.  Both substances are narcotics, but they differ significantly.  

  • Opiates are extracted from the natural sap and fibers of the poppy plant.  Examples of opiates are opium, codeine, morphine, and heroin.  
  • Opioids are synthesized compounds that are not derived directly from natural plant matter.  A few examples of opioids are hydrocodone (Vicodin), Oxycodone (Percocet), Fentanyl (Sublimaze, Duragesic), and Dextromethorphan (NyQuil, Robitussin, TheraFlu). 

Overcoming opiate or opioid use disorder (OUD) is a complex process that begins with detoxification.  The opiate detox process differs from one person to the next for several reasons.  For instance, the duration of opiate abuse, the specific opiate involved, and the individual’s physical or mental health can impact a person’s experience during opiate detox.  

Opiate detox is a medically supervised and controlled withdrawal from the drug.  The process allows the body to eliminate all traces of the drug from the system.  The time it takes depends on how long the person used the drug plus any underlying mental or physical factors.  After a successful detox, the patient should enter rehab to continue treatment.

What Are Opiate Withdrawal Symptoms?

During opiate detox, a person experiences various withdrawal symptoms that range from mild to severe.  Withdrawal is the term used to describe a group of symptoms that appear when quitting or decreasing drug use. The symptoms can include mental, physical, and emotional reactions that require medical intervention.  

Opiate withdrawal symptoms can include the following:

  • Mild physical withdrawal symptoms:
  • Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea
  • Hot and cold flashes
  • Insomnia
  • Muscle aches
  • Shaking and shivering
  • Increased heart rate
  • Headaches
  • Tiredness

Mild emotional withdrawal symptoms:

  • Anxiety, agitation
  • Confusion
  • Paranoia
  • Depression
  • Mood swings
  • Irritability
  • Cravings 

Severe withdrawal symptoms:

  • Dysphoria
  • Dehydration
  • Hallucinations
  • Elevated blood sodium level
  • Heart failure
  • Seizures

While most opiate withdrawal symptoms aren’t life-threatening, complications can happen.  To ensure a safe, effective detox, professional supervision is recommended.

What to Expect During the Detox Process

Most people fear detox and withdrawals based on stories they’ve watched on television or in movies.  In reality, detox can be uncomfortable.   But, with professional supervision, the discomfort can be controlled or minimized.  No one can predict exactly how long detox will last for each person.  But, the timeline can range from 8 – 24 hours to several days.  

When a person decides to enter detox, the first step is a medical assessment.  A medical expert will ask questions to get an idea of the person’s needs.  Information such as medical history, details about the substance abuse, and any other pertinent details to aid in developing a personalized plan.  

During opiate detox, the person receives 24-7 monitoring by addiction specialists and medical personnel.  This round-the-clock supervision ensures that the person experiences the best possible outcome.  

Why Medications are Used in Opiate Detox?

Depending on the detox program and the individual’s needs, medications may be used to help alleviate withdrawal symptoms.  Some of the most commonly used are Buprenorphine, Clonidine, or Methadone.  The drugs are used to help stabilize the symptoms or minimize the risk of complications during opiate withdrawal.  

Rapid detox is a method that is faster than regular detox.  During rapid detox, the person is sedated and given medications to replace the drug of abuse.  Many experts consider the risks of rapid detox to outweigh the benefits.  Ultra-rapid detox is another approach that is faster than regular detox and takes only a few hours.  But, it is riskier than the other methods.

Other detox options are available such as holistic detox which relies on an all-natural, drug-free approach. 

Is Detox a Cure for Opiate Addiction?

One of the most common misconceptions about detox is that it cures addiction.  But, in truth, detox is just the first step in overcoming addiction.  The purpose of detox is to rid the body of lingering toxins that cause cravings.  It is not a cure for addiction, but without detox, a person cannot enter the next phase of treatment.

The next step in overcoming addiction is to enter a rehabilitation program.  Rehab helps individuals learn effective methods for avoiding drugs in the future.  Counseling and therapy help the person understand addiction and any underlying factors that may have played a role in their substance abuse.  Through a comprehensive program of activities and classes, clients regain self-esteem, build confidence, and learn to accept responsibility for their behavior.

Opiate detox addresses the physical aspect of the addiction.  Rehab seeks to heal a person mentally, spiritually, and physically for lasting sobriety.  The combination of detox followed by rehab is proven to help people enjoy a drug-free lifestyle for the long term.

Types of Detox Programs Available

Detox can take place in different settings and at various levels of intensity.  SAMHSA identifies 5 levels of detox treatment as follows:

  1. Ambulatory Detoxification Without Extended On-Site Monitoring.  This is an outpatient program reserved for patients who have a strong support system outside of treatment.
  2. Ambulatory Detoxification With Extended OnSite Monitoring.  Similar to the outpatient program in Item 1.  This level requires credentialled nurses to monitor patients several hours a day.
  3. Clinically Managed Residential Detoxification.  Provides 24/7 supervision with minimal medical oversight.  Focuses on peer and social support.
  4. Medically Monitored Inpatient Detoxification.  Consists of 24/7 supervision and care in an inpatient setting.
  5. Medically Managed Intensive Inpatient Detoxification.  A restrictive level of care that provides 24/7 supervision and care in an acute care inpatient setting.

SAMHSA also offers guidelines for determining whether outpatient or inpatient detox is best.  They also stress the fact that detoxification involves more than simply withdrawing a person from addictive substances.  

Opiate Detox and Treatment at Cycles of Change Recovery

More than 130 lives are lost to opiate and opioid abuse each day in America.  At Cycles of Change Recovery, we want to help reduce those numbers.  We offer a comprehensive, evidence-based treatment program that includes detox, counseling, addiction education, and aftercare.  

At Cycles of Change Recovery, we recognize that each person is unique and responds to

treatment differently.  With that in mind, we help clients develop a plan for recovery that addresses their specific needs.  Our programs include the following services and tools that can be adapted to each client’s situation:

  • Meditation and Yoga
  • Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)
  • 12-Step Recovery Program
  • Family Therapy
  • Psychodrama Therapy
  • Biosound Therapy
  • Intervention Services
  • Intensive Outpatient Rehab Program (IOP)
  • Partial Hospitalization (PHP)
  • Extended Care
  • First Responder Wellness Program

Our trained and skilled team of professionals are prepared to help clients overcome addictions such as:

  1. Meth abuse and addiction
  2. Cocaine addiction
  3. Heroin addiction
  4. Alcohol addiction 
  5. Behavioral addictions
  6. Opioid and other prescription drug addictions

If you are ready to reclaim your life from the grip of addiction, contact us at our Palmdale, California facility today.  We will be available anytime to tell you more about how our program can help you achieve and maintain a lasting recovery from addiction.  When you succeed, you help us succeed in being a part of today’s drug addiction solution.  


  • cdc.gov – Provisional Drug Overdose Death Counts
  • samhsa.gov – Detoxification and Substance Abuse Treatment