Opioids and opiates are a large family of powerful, addictive substances that includes both street drugs and prescription medications. Common examples of these substances include:
- Oxycodone (an active ingredient in medications such as OxyContin and Percocet)
- Hydrocodone (an active ingredient in medications such as Vicodin and Lortab)
- Meperidine (Demerol)
Technically, opiates (which only contain chemicals that occur naturally in a plant called the opium poppy) belong to their own separate sub-group. However, a growing number of experts now refer to all opium-derived substances as opioids. That’s because, no matter how they get made, all of the drugs and medications in this family have the same basic effects on the brain and body. They also produce the same types of problems in addicted individuals.
What Is Detox?
Addiction specialists use the words detoxification and detox to describe the gradual elimination of drugs or alcohol from the bloodstream. No one hoping to recover from addicted use of opioids can avoid going through this process. Why? People addicted to opioids have undergone serious, persistent changes in the normal function of their brains and bodies. To make recovery a realistic goal, the negative impact of these changes must be addressed. And the only way to start the process is to wean the brain from its dependence on uncontrolled substance intake.
When the brain fails to receive its accustomed amount of an opioid drug or medication, withdrawal symptoms will begin to appear in the affected person. In the early stages of detoxification, common symptoms of withdrawal include:
- Sleeping difficulties
- Increased output of sweat, tears, and mucus
- Achy muscles
- Increased feelings of anxiety and mental agitation
As detox progresses and more and more opioids leave the body, other symptoms will set in, including:
- Loose stools
- Cramping in the stomach or abdomen
- Pupil dilation
- An intense urge to consume more opioids
Detoxification is complete when the drug or medication in question completely leaves the bloodstream. Many of the symptoms of withdrawal also end at this time. However, some longer-term withdrawal symptoms can only be addressed through follow-up participation in a substance treatment program. Continued treatment is also required to understand the behaviors that support addiction and develop new, healthier behaviors that contribute to a sober lifestyle.
The Importance of Medically Supervised Detox
Some people attempt to beat opioid addiction by going “cold turkey” and halting their drug or medication use on their own. However, for several reasons, this is a mistake that can lead to potentially severe consequences. First, the course of opioid detoxification varies from person to person. While most individuals don’t develop serious complications while going through withdrawal, the potential for problems cannot be eliminated. If complications occur in a person not under a doctor’s care, they can spiral out of control and produce damaging mental and physical effects.
People who attempt to detox on their own also have higher chances of relapsing and returning to active opioid consumption. That’s true, in part, because anyone detoxing without professional assistance can find it difficult or impossible to withstand the highly unpleasant effects of withdrawal. It’s also true because cravings for opioid use often reach an extreme level during the detoxification process.
Finally, people who try to quit opioids on their own increase their chances of overdosing if a relapse occurs. The reason? As detox progresses, the built-up tolerance to the effects of opioid drugs and medications starts to disappear. Users in the later stages of detoxification who return to substance use may find that a level of consumption they were accustomed to in the past may now overwhelm their systems with potentially fatal consequences.
Medically supervised detoxification programs focus on each of these three areas of concern. By providing constant monitoring and oversight, they make it possible to catch withdrawal complications early and prevent the onset of major problems. By helping patients cope with cravings and other common withdrawal symptoms, they reduce the odds that a relapse will take place. In turn, a decline in relapse risks leads to reduced odds of experiencing a fatal or non-fatal overdose.
Summit’s Opioid/Opiate Program
At Summit Detox, our opioid/opiate program is based on the most up-to-date guidelines for safe and effective detoxification. These guidelines break the process down into three phases:
- A thorough, individualized evaluation of each new patient
- Physical and emotional/psychological stabilization designed to maximize the potential for positive detox results
- Preparation for follow-up participation in an appropriate inpatient or outpatient opioid treatment program
Our staff of medical experts and detoxification specialists will create a detailed, personalized plan of action for you or your loved one. In addition to round-the-clock monitoring, core elements of our plans include physical and psychotherapeutic support while detox proceeds and opioid substances leave your system. You may also receive medications designed to ease the effects of opioid withdrawal. Factors we take into account in all cases include:
- The specific type of opioid-associated with your addiction
- The amount of time addiction has been present
- Your current overall state of physical health
- Your current overall state of mental health
Our goal is an effective treatment that establishes the basis for successful, ongoing opioid addiction recovery.