Opioid Addiction: Detox, Treatment & More

What Are Opioids?

Opioids are a powerful class of naturally-occurring and synthetic drugs. These types of drugs are widely used for their pain management capabilities and are commonplace in the management of moderate and severe (and often chronic) pain. However, due to the nature of how opioids affect the body, opioids can cause sedative and euphoria-inducing effects which have made them a target of abuse. Both the illegal types of opioids (heroin, fentanyl) and legal varieties (codeine, oxycodone,  hydrocodone) have become a popular recreational drug. 

The numbers of opioid-related fatalities have skyrocketed in the recent decade, accounting for nearly 70% of drug-related overdoses in 2018. These numbers include both illicit and prescription opioid drugs – but it has primarily been the latter that has driven the ongoing epidemic crisis in the United States that national, state, and local governments have been working diligently to address. Unfortunately, the hundreds of thousands of individuals who are already physically dependent on these substances must face the reality of opioid detox, withdrawal, and rehab if they are going to get their recovery on track and build a better life.

The New York Times reports that opiates are responsible for more deaths than any other medicine or drug.

What Makes Opioids Addictive?

No matter what the substance is, ongoing use can lead to the development of a physical dependency. When this occurs, the body has become so used to a substance that it often requires it to function. Psychological cravings usually follow shortly thereafter, resulting in what is known as full-blown addiction.

In the case of opioids, the risk of developing an addiction is significantly higher due to parts of the brain that are stimulated with opioid use. Opioids activate our mu-receptors, which influence the sensations of both pain and pleasure. Feelings of pleasure are closely related to reward pathways in the brain, and once triggered, creates a strong association that can quickly lead to the development of compulsive behaviors. Opioids are able to do this on a powerful level that can be up to 10x stronger than the feelings of pleasure our bodies would normally produce. Opioid highs have been described as a “wave of euphoria” and can be so powerful as to rewire the brain, leaving it wanting more, after a single use.

Addiction to Prescription Opioids

If you or a loved one was prescribed an opioid pain killer such as codeine, oxycodone, hydrocodone, hydromorphone, tramadol, or fentanyl, you should be aware that these are highly addictive substances. It does not take long to start to develop a dependence on them. If you notice any of the following in regards to you or a loved one’s use of a prescription opioid, you should contact an addiction specialist for help.

  • Taking larger doses or more frequent doses in order to feel the same effects
  • Inability to stop or control use
  • Cravings for the substance
  • Failure at work, school, or home obligations due to substance use
  • Continued use despite issues in your personal or work life
  • Withdrawal from normal activities
  • Continued use despite mental or physical health concerns
  • Experience withdrawal symptoms

Addiction to Illicit Opioids

In many cases, when an addiction to prescription opioid pain killers is not caught and treated early it leads to risky behaviors and even the use of illicitly made opioid drugs, such as heroin. Social pressure and the use of other illicit drugs can also lead to the abuse of illicit opioids. Some signs of severe opioid addiction or the use of illicitly made opioids include:

  • Withdrawal from normal activities
  • Possession of drug paraphernalia (mental spoon, glass pipe, syringe, lighter or candle & matches).
  • Doctor shopping (going to multiple doctors to receive prescriptions)
  • Going to multiple pharmacies around town to fill prescriptions

Types of Opioids

There is a wide array of opioids present in America. Some are prescription drugs used in a medical setting to manage severe pain, whereas others are illicitly-made and abused. Learn more about some of the most common and dangerous opioid addictions:

fentanyl addiction treatment in Florida
heroin addiction

Opioid Addiction Treatment Starts With Detox

When the substance is suddenly absent from the body responds with very unpleasant withdrawal symptoms that range from flu-like to potentially fatal. For this reason, it is recommended to slowly taper off opioid use rather than quitting cold turkey and ideally, with the supervision of a medical professional. Fortunately, there are several opioid antagonists that can be used to help beat opioid addiction at the more difficult stages. These medications can help mitigate opioid withdrawal effects or intervene in the instance of an opium overdose.


Naloxone is the generic name of a drug that can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. It works by attaching itself to the same receptors occupied by the harmful opioids and taking their place. By disrupting the connection between the harmful opioid and the receptor, the negative effects of an overdose can immediately be reversed. This can be life-saving, namely by restoring the ability to breathe.

Naloxone is available as an injectable liquid and as a nasal spray. with the most common brand names include Narcan and Evizo. This medication is only effective if administered when an overdose is occurring and cannot be used pre-emptively to prevent an opioid overdose. 


Buprenorphine is able to activate opioid receptors and relieve cravings without eliciting any surge of euphoria. Being an opioid itself, it is able to fulfill the receptors’ physical need to be stimulated but does so without generating feelings of euphoria (the main cause of addiction-forming behavior). 

What makes it even more useful is the limits in the effect this partial opioid can exert on these receptors. This ensures that no high can be achieved, effectively eliminating the likelihood of being abused, and also limits the effects of other opioids that are taken.

This medication functions similarly to methadone, another opioid antagonist that is commonly used to treat opioid dependence. However, methadone has recently fallen out of favor as a treatment for opioid addiction due to its potential for being habit-forming. As such, it has largely been replaced in favor of buprenorphine in addiction treatment settings.


Suboxone is a brand name drug composed of a combination of naloxone and buprenorphine that is used to treat opioid dependence, not just manage the symptoms. The buprenorphine component enables it to lessen any persisting opioid cravings – the primary side effect of opioid detox or withdrawal. 

The presence of naloxone allows Suboxone to take treatment a step further. Instead of reversing the symptoms of an overdose, naloxone acts as a deterrent to further opioid abuse. It does so by causing unpleasant withdrawal symptoms should Suboxone be used via injection (a typical administration method for drug abusers) instead of being taken orally as directed. This prevents Suboxone users from trading one addiction for another.

What To Expect During Opioid Withdrawal

Withdrawal Symptoms

  • Nausea
  • Sweats and chills
  • Soreness and aching in muscles and bones
  • Sinus issues
  • Fatigue and loss of energy
  • Agitation and restlessness
  • Vomiting and diarrhea

Withdrawal Symptoms Depend On

As mentioned previously, not every individual will experience the same withdrawal symptoms. In fact, there are various factors that can affect how severe the withdrawal symptoms may be and how long the detox process will take. Depending on the answers to the following items, withdrawal may be longer and more severe, or shorter and less severe. Factors to consider include:

  • How long a person has been dependent on opiates
  • The type of opiate the person is dependent on
  • The frequency and severity of opiate abuse
  • Underlying medical conditions
  • The co-occurring existence of a psychological health issue
  • Highly stressful and unsupportive surroundings

The Withdrawal Timeline

Opioid drug withdrawal mostly adheres to a specific timeline, although the factors listed above may cause some variation. In general, the withdrawal symptoms typically peak within 48-72 hours and subside within a period of 5 to 10 days. The onset, duration, and intensity of withdrawal symptoms will be different for each person, but the general opiate withdrawal timeline includes the following:

  • 8-12 hours – Anxiety, agitation, watery eyes, runny nose, and increased sweating.
  • 12-24 hours – Nausea, stomach cramps, vomiting, diarrhea, goosebumps, and dilated pupils.
  • 36-72 hours – Symptoms peak and then gradually subside over the next few days.

How Long Does Opioids Withdrawal Last?

The period and extent of withdrawal symptoms also depend on whether the opioid is long-acting or short-acting. Heroin is relatively short-acting compared to other opiates, therefore, heroin withdrawal symptoms appear just hours after the last dose and may last for a shorter time period. Longer-acting opioid painkillers may not provoke withdrawal symptoms till some days after the final dose, and some symptoms may last for weeks.

Detox Facility

Treatment programs for opioids addiction usually starts with detoxification from the drug followed by either inpatient treatment or some specified procedure of organized outpatient treatment (partial hospitalization or concentrated outpatient programs).

Only a finely managed treatment facility provides a steady and comfortable setting in which detox of the drug can take place while providing opiate withdrawal support and medications to help decrease the possibility of complications and difficulties associated with opiate withdrawal. Opioid detox at a medically supervised facility can minimize the severity of the symptoms and make the withdrawal process significantly easier and more comfortable to endure. Our facilities also offer multiple levels of treatment for an easy transition following the completion of an opiate detox program.

Amenities at Level Up Lake Worth include semi-private rooms, luxurious bathrooms, spacious common areas for socializing, a communal dining area that is always stocked with nutritious snacks, and much more!

Detox At Home

Opioids detox at home can be difficult and sometimes unproductive. Unaided withdrawal may not be life-threatening, but there is a major possibility that it will lead to relapse. When opioid substances such as oxycodone and heroin begin to leave the human blood system, they begin to develop severe cravings for the substance. Strong cravings mixed with unpleasant flu-like symptoms can make it easy for someone going through withdrawal at home to give up and relapse before their recovery really gets on its way. Without the medical and social support that a detox center offers, it is tempting to abandon withdrawal and start using again. Medications and therapy are accessible at a medical detox center to help reduce the discomfort and simultaneously reduce the risk of relapse compared to detoxing at home.

Detoxification Process

The opiate detoxification process is not exactly the same as detoxing from other addictive substances, such as alcohol or cocaine. The withdrawal symptoms are different and often, there are medications used to help minimize the physical withdrawal symptoms and to prevent the intense cravings that accompany opioid detox. Detox from heroin, fentanyl, and prescription opioids is a closely managed process and often the same or similar medications are continued to be used following detox.

Medications such as Subutex and Suboxone have been officially approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) exclusively to treat opioid dependence. These new medications have opened up various opioid detox treatment methods.

The opioid detox process will be different for individuals who are detoxing via medically assisted treatment versus abstinence.

Opiate Detox Medications
  • Buprenorphine – Prescribed to reduce the span of time it takes for opiate detoxification and assists an individual in upholding prolonged abstinence from opioids. The commonly used brand name of this substance is Subutex. Following detox, Suboxone may be used for long term medically assisted treatment. Suboxone is a drug that includes both buprenorphine & naloxone.
  • Methadone – Relieves and reduces the unpleasant impact of withdrawal symptoms. It is also used as long-term maintenance therapy for those addicted to opioids.
  • Naltrexone – Blocks the effects of opioids and may be used to induce withdrawal. It does not let the opioid intake affect the individual, therefore, it may also be used to avert future dependence and misuse.
  • Clonidine – Can help diminish the flu-like symptoms that come with opioid withdrawal, along with other withdrawal symptoms such as the anxiety and agitation most people experience.

Other medications may be used for symptoms such as stomach cramps, diarrhea, insomnia, anxiety, and depression.

Medical opioid detox helps smooth the withdrawal process, reduce side effects, prevent serious complications, and lessens opioid cravings. Overall, these medications offer a decent start towards recovery and help to maintain sobriety long-term. Detox has to be followed with counseling, education and awareness, family and individual therapy, and support groups that can aid an individual in their attempt to stop using drugs and continue sobriety.

Medical Treatments for Opioid Addiction: Suboxone vs. Methadone

What to Expect from a Opioid Detox Center

Our opioid addiction treatment center is here to help individuals successfully complete the opioid detox process and to address psychological, physical, and spiritual issues connected to drug abuse. Qualified doctors, nurses, therapists, and addiction cases managers will be with you throughout the recovery process to ensure you have the support you need.

This Is Hope
If you or a loved one is dealing with dependence or addiction to opioids, contact our treatment support at Level Up Lake Worth to find the best treatment option for you.

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