One of the biggest reasons people are often hesitant to start an opioid addiction recovery program is fear or worry about the withdrawal process. These feelings are perfectly normal, however, and the good news is that they can be overcome. It all starts with learning more about what the opioid detox process entails and finding a treatment program that will support you from start to finish.

If you or a loved one is looking to beat an opioid dependency, you’re far from alone. While the modern opioid epidemic is an issue that has only gained widespread discussion in recent times, it has been growing for years. In 2010 there were an estimated 21,000 deaths from opiate overdose, and this number has steadily grown to be over double that today, according to the American Psychiatric Association (APA). The APA also estimates that nearly one in three people now know someone who is addicted to opioids, and there are at least two million people nationwide currently struggling an opioid abuse problem.

So, there’s no better time than the present to start tackling a dependency to opioids head-on. While the detox process can be challenging, it is far from impossible to overcome. Here’s what you need to know:

What is Withdrawal?

“Addiction” is often used interchangeably with the word “dependency” because when it comes to substances, they are one and the same. When a person is struggling with an opiate addiction, their body has become dependent on the substance. Both their mind and their physical organs have grown accustomed to receiving opioids in certain minimum amounts, and when they are deprived of opioids in those minimum amounts, negative reactions occur. These negative reactions are withdrawal symptoms.

These natural negative reactions can be so unpleasant that, if the person is not in the right environment, they can try to cope with things by introducing more opiates into their body. This is how many people become increasingly heavy users of substances like opioids despite attempts to “quit”. Fortunately, the right recovery environment and treatment services can support them through the withdrawal process and prevent increased dependency.

Detox Symptoms or ‘Side Effects’

It’s really the symptoms or “side effects” of opioid withdrawal that intimidate people. But while they can certainly be unpleasant, it is important to understand that all of them are temporary. For many people, detox symptoms begin right after their last opiate dose, while for others it can take hours or even days.

Here is a list of the more common symptoms that can be expected once detox or “withdrawal” begins:

  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Sweating
  • Muscle cramps
  • Anger or agitation
  • Diarrhea
  • Increased (more intense) opioid cravings

It may also help to know that many people do not experience every withdrawal symptom and instead only experience one to a few of them.

How Long Does Detox Last?

The detox period can vary from person to person. Just like the exact start time of withdrawal can vary, the time period during which it lasts will vary depending on a number of factors (including, but not limited to, substance use amount and frequency, weight, general health, etc.) In most cases, the most severe symptoms of withdrawal can last hours to about a day. Symptoms as a whole can last days to about a week.

Why Medical Detox Should Be Considered

The withdrawal process can also be a lot easier to deal with when medical detox is involved. While this course of treatment may not be right for everyone, for many it can ease them out of opiate dependency more smoothly and greatly reduce the likelihood of a relapse. In most cases, medical detox is an inpatient-only treatment program, although it may be achieved in rarer cases through partial-day programs.

In a medical detox setting, the patient is supported by a professional medical staff (nurses and doctors) who may use the assistance of certain medicines to help ease their withdrawal symptoms. The patient is closely monitored the entire time and supported both medically and emotionally.

Now, it is true that successful detox and addiction recovery may be achieved without this medical intervention. However, the emotional and physical pull of substances like opioids shows that medical assistance can greatly increase the likelihood of success. It is important to explore this option before making a final decision.

Getting Started

To learn more about the opioid withdrawal process and recovery, do not be afraid to reach out to experienced treatment professionals. After all, the first steps toward beating a dependency on opioids involve not just admitting there is a problem, but starting to look at recovery options. Don’t be afraid to ask detailed questions about the withdrawal process— real treatment professionals are there to help!

Last but not least, always remember that you are not alone. Thousands of people across the country enter treatment programs every year and get through the detox process to success. With determination, the right support, and plenty of knowledge under your belt, you too can beat opioid addiction and take back your life.

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