Detoxing From Opiates: Symptoms And Methods For Physical Recovery

One of the hard parts of recovering from an addiction to opiates is overcoming the intense and physically excruciating detoxification process. Many rehab centers now offer detoxification options that can help patients to make their way through the difficult stages of withdrawal with medical supervision. With the more advanced medicines available for those recovering from substance abuse, there is hope that freedom from addiction is possible.

What happens when someone suddenly stops opiate use?

When drug users had to quit without medical assistance, the body would go through a variety of physical ailments over the course of several days. These symptoms still occur within the body today, but there are ways to manage them with medical drugs. The typical symptoms occur as follows:

  • intense abdominal pain. Usually subjects will throw up anything in the stomach, and the muscles in the digestive tract will begin to spasm, leading to diarrhea and severe cramps.
  • the muscles in the body will start to reawaken from their typical numbed state. This process is severely painful because the muscles have not been stimulated properly by the nervous system in a long time. Involuntary muscle movements are normal, including kicking in the legs that cannot be controlled. These spasms in the legs that coined the phrase "kicking the habit".
  • The nerves in the body start to react to the loss of opiates in the bloodstream, and may fire randomly, making it impossible for the subject to rest and sleep. Insomnia will last until the initial symptoms die down.
  • a head cold sets in. Although this is not a true cold, like those caused by viruses, subjects will have headaches, a runny nose, and a cough.
  • chills. Because the nerves have not been properly stimulated during addiction, subjects may get goosebumps and feeling of being cold, even in a normal temperature.

How is detoxification handled by hospital and recovery centers?

Fortunately, modern medicine can manage and speed up some of the unpleasant experiences that come with detoxification. However, these processes are not without risk. Some common ways to help patients detox less painfully include:

1. Using muscle relaxants and non-opiate pain relievers, like diazepam. There is some danger in using different drugs to treat withdrawal symptoms, as most powerful pain killers can also cause new addictions if not administered properly. These drugs help to curb some of the symptoms. 

2. Rapid detox cycles. Sometimes, a doctor may recommend removing a patient from physical opiate dependence quickly. This is sometimes medically necessary. For example, if the subject is close to death, detox is needed when the medications required will not be as effective with opiates still in the system. Some patients may ask for rapid detoxification as a preferred treatment, especially if they have failed with other detoxification methods in the past.

A series of opiate blockers are injected into the bloodstream, and continue to be administered through the IV during the detox process. This immediately cuts off the opiates from the nerve cells, instead of allowing them to slowly leave the body. Other drugs are used to control spasms, and nutrients are also given to the patient through an IV. Rapid detox is very painful for the body because the subject undergoes all withdrawal symptoms rapidly, so the subject is under general anesthesia for the duration. There are some risks with this procedure, as some participants faced lethal consequences as a result. However, the process is usually finished within hours, instead of days. 

3. Quick detox through steps. A safer way to quickly detox is through a staged detox program at a place like Olalla Recovery Centers. Opiate blockers are still used, just in smaller doses over several hours, and instead of being delivered directly into the blood stream, they are taken orally, or given to the patient through the skin. The side effects are less painful because the opiate blockers reach nerve cells in more controlled way. The patient is awake, and series of relaxing drugs are used to control the heightened withdrawal symptoms.