Understanding Opioid Addiction and Detox
Many people who struggle with substance abuse may find themselves addicted or dependent on opioids, to deal with their daily lives. Individuals use these drugs to cope with chronic and emotional pain, making that pain more bearable.
For prescribers who wish to treat acute pain in their clients, opioids are at the top of the pharmaceutical list. Unfortunately, these drugs are also some of the most addictive substances on the market. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), approximately 91 people die in the United States each day, from an opioid overdose. This is one of the major factors why the opioid crisis was declared a national emergency1.
Getting clean from these substances will involve a detox period that may feel insurmountable. Your detox from opioids can vary in both length and severity of symptoms you experience. Checking into a rehab facility that is dedicated to this type of treatment is the safest and likely, most comfortable option for those looking to detox. Experienced professionals can help you to take the first step toward sobriety.
What Makes Opioids Addictive?
The brain naturally has receptors that bind to opioids. When this occurs, the reward system of the brain lights up and creates a pleasurable effect on your body and emotions. Pain is eliminated from the body, and you will likely experience a sense of calm and euphoria2.
The reward center of your brain enjoys the outcome opioids provide. It aims to repeat the same action over and over again, so that you can continue to experience a sense of happiness. You may discover that things you used to enjoy, no longer bring about the same kind of euphoria. In other words, nothing can truly compete with the high from the substances you have been taking.
As a result, your body begins to crave the effects of opioids. Overtime, you will need to increase your dose to feel the same euphoric feeling because you have built a tolerance to the drug. If you run out of opioids or go without taking the drug for a period of time, you are likely to experience some uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms3.
Early Symptoms of Opioid Detox
The timeline for detox can vary from person to person. It depends how frequently you were abusing opioids, in addition to any underlying conditions that might contribute to your substance abuse. May people can feel the effects of detox within hours of stopping usage and can experience different symptoms.
Some of the very first symptoms you experience are physical, including4:
- Muscle aches
- Inability to sleep
- Frequent yawning
- Runny nose or watery eyes
You may also experience psychological symptoms such as increased anxiety. Your brain may run a hundred miles a minute, trying to process what is on in your body.
The early symptoms of detox are likely to affect you within the first day or two after your last dose of opioids. While many of those symptoms may continue, you are also likely to experience more severe symptoms later into the detox. These symptoms are typically the most intense within the first five days and will fade out within two weeks5.
For the most part, many individuals who are detoxing experience flu-like symptoms. They find that they are nauseous often and even suffer from vomiting and diarrhea. Abdominal cramps are a common complaint that often goes hand in hand with the other flu symptoms that most people experience.
In addition to these unpleasant withdrawal symptoms, you might have other health problems that can be more serious. For example, your pupils may dilate or you could experience difficulty with your vision. If possible, you should refrain from driving or operating heavy machinery while going through this stage of your detox. You never know how your body will react while trying to adjust to its new normal without opioids in your system.
Other potentially concerning issues include rapid heartbeat and high blood pressure. These are troubling issues to experience, but they are often temporary while your body adjusts.
Psychological Symptoms of Opioid Detox
It’s true that most people tend to focus first on the physical symptoms they will experience while detoxing from opioids. These issues often take center stage when you discontinue your substance abuse. However, the psychological toll that detox can have is equally noteworthy.
When you are addicted to opioids, your body adjusts to the emotional high that accompanies each dosage. Psychologically, it feels good to block out the pain and achieve a state of emotional bliss, even for a short period of time. Taking opioids away can leave you wondering how to cope with the events of your daily life, while no longer suppressing the emotional pain you may be suffering.
Most people experience increased anxiety as they work their way through withdrawal. While this is an early symptom, it is one that may last after your body has passed the drugs out of its system. Anxiety about where you can get more drugs or how to handle your daily struggles is commonplace. Seeking emotional support early, even before you begin your official detox can help to talk through those symptoms of anxiety and get you on the road to recovery.
Other psychological symptoms of opioid withdrawal can include depression and intense cravings for more opioids. If you never struggled with depression before, this might take you by surprise. Rest assured, while the cravings may never go away, the depression might fade when your body returns to its former baseline.
All of these symptoms may be worsened by the sleep disturbances that many people experience with opioid withdrawal. It may be hard for you to fall asleep and stay asleep with any kind of predictable regularity. Try to practice good sleep hygiene to minimize these effects.
Even if you can’t afford a detox facility, you should still seek treatment with licensed professionals. Many people even come to enjoy their one-on-one therapy sessions in a safe place, where they can express their frustrations and feelings, receive feedback, and learn new coping skills that are healthier than their opioid addiction. Weekly sessions give you something to look forward to and can help you to maintain a balanced rhythm to your week.
Additionally, attending support groups such as Narcotics Anonymous will give you an opportunity to share your struggles, connect with other like-minded individuals who are focused on recovery, and give you clear guidance on how to maintain your sobriety. Many individuals find great success with twelve-step programs or other group settings that teach valuable therapeutic skills such as mindfulness.
There's much more to life, and we can help you discover it. When you’re ready, All Points North Lodge is here with the programs and expertise you need to face your addiction with confidence. Our team of expert clinicians are ready to help you take the next step towards healing and recovery. We offer programs designed to treat addictions and mental health disorders. Nestled in the beautiful Rocky Mountains, APN Lodge offers a luxury rehab experience that is surrounded by the perfect environment for healing, personal growth, and recovery. Using evidence-based treatment approaches, our team of clinicians has the expertise to guide you through the process from referral through program completion.
To learn about all that the APN Lodge experience offers, reach out to one of our Contact Center team members at 866-525-9107. Let us help you find your way forward.
- Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. “Ongoing Emergencies & Disasters.” CMS, Department of Homeland Security, 23 Jan. 2020, www.cms.gov/About-CMS/Agency-Information/Emergency/EPRO/Current-Emergencies/Ongoing-emergencies.
- Kelley, Ryan, and Leah Walker. “Opiate Withdrawal Timeline, Symptoms, and Treatment.” Edited by Sarah Hardey, Opioid Withdrawal & Symptoms - Opioid Addiction , American Addiction Centers, 29 Apr. 2021, americanaddictioncenters.org/withdrawal-timelines-treatments/opiate.
- Hill, Peter. “The Science of Addiction.” Opioid Addiction, Johns Hopkins Medicine, 2020, www.hopkinsmedicine.org/opioids/science-of-addiction.html.
- Case-Lo, Christine. “Coping with Opiate Withdrawal.” Opioid and Opiate Withdrawal: Symptoms and Treatment , Heathline, 12 July 2019, www.healthline.com/health/coping-opiate-withdrawal.
- Harvard Medical School Staff. “Treating Opiate Addiction, Part I: Detoxification and Maintenance.” Treating Opiate Addiction , Harvard Medical School, 27 June 2019, www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/treating-opiate-addiction-part-i-detoxification-and-maintenance.