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A Guide to Opioid Withdrawal and Medical Detox


Opioid overdose deaths are devastating communities across the nation at terrifying rates. Withdrawal from opioids can be brutal and painful, so much so that it can be dangerous to detox alone. For this reason, medical detox is the safest, most comfortable way to detox your body from opioids. If you have the desire to get sober from opioids but withdrawals are standing in your way, you probably have many questions and doubts about the detox process.

Opioid Addiction

Opioids are derived and synthesized from the opium poppy plant and they are commonly provided as pharmaceuticals for pain relief. However, due to the addictive nature of opioids, they are widely misused and millions suffer from opioid addiction. Opioids are typically abused because they promote feelings of euphoria, decreased physical tension, and a decrease in anxiety.

Drugs that are classified as opioids are:

  • Hydrocodone (Vicodin)
  • Codeine
  • Morphine
  • Oxycodone
  • Methadone
  • Hydromorphone (Dilaudid)
  • Fentanyl
  • Heroin

The National Institute on Drug Abuse estimates that 21-29% of people who are given an opioid prescription abuse their medication and between 8% and 12% develop an addiction to opioids. As many as 80% of people suffering from heroin addiction start off by abusing prescription opioid medications. With more than 130 people dying from opioid overdoses each day in the United States, it is dire to receive the treatment you need before it is too late. 

Opioid dependency can develop rapidly. After only one week of abusing prescription opioids, a person may develop a physical dependence where they suffer from withdrawal symptoms when their pharmaceuticals run out. When it is too difficult to obtain a prescription, many turn to illicit street drugs like heroin. 

Opioid Withdrawal Symptoms

The severity and length of opioid withdrawal will vary from person to person depending on what kind of opioid was abused, how long it was abused, weight, gender, and other physical and mental health conditions. Although withdrawals will vary from person to person, they can take a serious toll on one’s mental and physical health. Withdrawal symptoms usually rear their ugly face within hours after taking the last dose, but most severe symptoms subside after 5-7 days. Some less severe symptoms may be experienced for up to a month after beginning the detox process. 

Opioid withdrawal very closely mimics a case of the common flu virus. Some physical symptoms you may experience during opioid withdrawal are:

  • Runny nose
  • Overproductive tear ducts
  • Excessive yawning
  • Muscle aches
  • Clammy skin
  • Sweating
  • Goosebumps
  • Headaches
  • Restless limbs
  • Dilated pupils
  • Insomnia
  • Fatigue
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea 
  • Abdominal cramping
  • High blood pressure

Aside from physical withdrawal symptoms, many people who are addicted to opioids also suffer from some of the following psychological withdrawal symptoms.

  • Agitation and irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Mood swings
  • Distorted thinking
  • Obsessing about getting high
  • Strong desire to use opioids

Even though opioid detox is usually not fatal, it can be extremely uncomfortable and difficult to do alone. Before making the decision to detox alone, it is important to consider the discomfort you may experience during opioid withdrawals. People who choose to detox on their own may be more susceptible to relapse, dehydration, aspiration, anxiety, depression, and cardiac distress. Seeking out an accredited medical detox will help you effectively manage your withdrawal symptoms and make the detox process as easy as possible, increasing your chances of staying sober throughout the detoxification period.

Medical Opioid Detox

Drug detox, or detoxification, is the term used to describe the process of the body clearing a substance out of the system. It is a crucial, first step in starting your recovery. In order to minimize risks and safely care for your mind and body during this vulnerable time, medical detox is likely the best option for you.

Choosing a medical detox when quitting opioids will help alleviate many or all of your withdrawal symptoms. You will be under close supervision by our medical staff to ensure that your opioid detox goes as smoothly as possible. Our professional detox staff will be ready to intervene in the case that an emergency arises to ensure your safety during opioid detox. Without around-the-clock care and detox medications, the minds of many addicts will convince themselves that the withdrawals are not worth the pain, resulting in a relapse. 

When you check into an opioid detox, a medical professional will evaluate your medical and substance abuse history in order to develop an individualized plan tailored to your needs. They will be equipped to provide you with emotional support as well as medication to help manage your physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms. 

Medicine like Buprenorphine and Naloxone are frequently administered to alleviate many, if not all, withdrawal symptoms you may be experiencing. These medications bind to the same receptors in the brain as do opioids, without producing feelings of euphoria. Your dose will be supervised and tapered throughout your stay in detox until your withdrawal symptoms subside. Choosing to detox without the appropriate medications can shock the system, putting the body at risk for severe reactions like convulsions, hallucinations, and seizures. 

Your length of stay in detox will depend on the severity of your withdrawal symptoms. Once you have been medically stabilized and your withdrawal symptoms have subsided, our addiction specialists will help you formulate an aftercare plan that best suits your treatment needs. 


Detox is short term, making effective addiction treatment ideal for those who are addicted to opioids. After you have been safely detoxed, it is highly encouraged to attend addiction treatment and therapy. Once your body has been cleared of the drugs, you may feel better physically, but the underlying causes and conditions of your addiction have yet to be treated. After all, recovery doesn’t end with detox – detox is only the beginning. 

There is no cure for opioid use disorder, but it can be effectively treated and managed by an addiction treatment program. Treatment options include inpatient and outpatient treatment, which can help you develop the tools and coping mechanisms needed to live a sober life. 


Medline Plus Opiate and Opioid Withdrawal

National Institute of Drug Abuse Opioid Overdose Crisis

Call the Agape Treatment Center admissions team at 888-614-0077 to learn more about what our addiction and mental health facilities can do for you or your loved one.

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