Opiate Detox Centers
Opiates, also known as opioids or narcotics, are strong, highly addictive drugs.1 Prescription opioids like oxycodone or fentanyl are prescribed to treat moderate to severe pain, such as after a surgery, though sometimes they are used to manage chronic pain. Illicit opioids include heroin, which is chemically very similar to prescription opioids. Misusing opiates can lead to dependence, which means you’ll experience unpleasant and painful withdrawal symptoms when you suddenly quit using. Thankfully, professional opiate detox can help alleviate withdrawal symptoms and cravings and provide much-needed medical care during this distressing time.1 There are many opiate detox centers available, from medical inpatient detox in a hospital setting to outpatient.
Effects of Opiate Misuse
You may experience long-term and short-term effects of opiate misuse.2 Short-term opiate effects include euphoria, pain-relief, and relaxation, which is why so many people misuse these drugs. Other side effects include:2
- Slowed breathing
- Hypoxia, a condition that occurs when you don’t have enough oxygen reaching your brain, which can cause coma, brain damage, or death
Long-term consequences of opioid misuse include the risk of overdose, death, and damage to your quality of life. A common sign of opiate addiction is continuing to use drugs despite the negative consequences that arise.3 Negative consequences can include worsening health and relationships or the inability to function at work or school.
Another long-term consequence of opioid misuse is the risk of becoming dependent on the substance. Dependence occurs when you continually use opiates, and your brain then requires the substance to function normally. Without the presence of an opiate, you’ll experience painful withdrawal symptoms, which can be so distressing that you return to opiate use to relieve the symptoms. This can create a compulsive cycle of detoxing and relapsing that can be difficult to break without the help of an opiate detox center. Some examples of opiate withdrawal symptoms include:2
- Severe cravings
- Trembling or uncontrollable leg movements
- Goose bumps and cold flashes
- Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea
- Sleep disturbances
- Bone and muscle pain
If you are addicted to opiates, dependence is almost always present as well, but dependence on its own doesn’t necessarily indicate an opiate addiction. If you have been taking a prescription opioid under a doctor’s supervision, you may develop a dependence—and that’s a normal physiological manifestation of long-term opiate use. If you want to stop taking your medication, talk to your provider and they will help you detox by gradually weaning you off of the drug to avoid withdrawal symptoms.[cta]
Types of Opiate Detox Centers
There are different types of detox centers. Depending on your needs, your doctor or mental health provider might refer you to a specific kind of opiate detox facility. Different kinds of centers include inpatient medical detox, intensive outpatient programs, and outpatient centers.4
Inpatient Medical Opiate Detox
Inpatient medical opiate detox is the most intensive detox setting, occurring in a hospital-type environment or a free-standing detox center and providing 24/7 care. Doctors and treatment providers oversee the opiate withdrawal process, provide you with opiate withdrawal medications like methadone or buprenorphine, and offer any other necessary medical care.5 The treatment team is there to help prevent and respond to any medical emergencies or complications that may arise during withdrawal.
The length of stay varies depending on your individual needs, how you respond to medication, your physical and mental health during withdrawal, and more. Opiate detox may last anywhere from one week to several.
Intensive Outpatient Detox Programs
Intensive outpatient detox programs involve attending several hours of detox services at a facility during the day and returning home in the evening. Because you don’t receive 24/7 care, it’s important that you have a strong support system at home who can encourage and empower you throughout opiate detox. This option offers more structure and a higher frequency of care than standard outpatient detox programs, making it a good option for someone who needs more oversight but isn’t able to reside in an inpatient detox facility.
Outpatient detox centers offer less care than intensive outpatient programs or inpatient services and are typically best if you have mild opiate withdrawal symptoms and have a high motivation to abstain from drugs. You may receive a few hours of care per week, which may include medications, depending on the program and provider.
Medications Used in Opiate Detox Centers
During medical detox, specific medications may be administered to manage opiate withdrawal, such as:5,7
- Methadone: This full opioid agonist medication helps relieve opiate withdrawal symptoms and cravings without producing a euphoric high.
- Buprenorphine: This partial opioid agonist medication alleviates cravings and withdrawal symptoms and has a ceiling effect, which means its effects level off at moderate doses, making it a very safe choice.
- Clonidine: Clonidine, which may be used in conjunction with an opioid withdrawal medication, can help relieve certain withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety, sweating, and rapid heart rate. It does not help reduce cravings.
What to Expect During Detox
When you arrive at your professional opiate detox program, you will immediately be evaluated by a mental health or medical professional, who will assess your:
- Withdrawal severity
- Substance use
- Mental health
- Family history of substance use and mental health conditions
- Physical health
- Previous withdrawal experiences
- Sociological factors, such as support system, job, and home environment
Once they complete an evaluation, they will use this information to create your individualized detox plan, which will likely include:
- Detox counseling
- Methadone or buprenorphine
- Supportive medical care, such as IV fluids or nutritional therapy
- Symptomatic medications, such as clonidine
- Drug education
- Case management and referral to opiate addiction treatment
The treatment team will administer the opiate withdrawal medications either on a predetermined schedule or as needed to address symptoms. Once symptoms resolve, they will gradually taper you off of them since they are opioids themselves and can cause dependence. The goal of detox is to achieve a medically-stable, substance-free state. Once you complete detox, your treatment team will create a post-detox care plan for you, involving referral to an opiate addiction treatment center, either on an inpatient or outpatient basis.
Life After Opiate Detox
Detox is just the first step on the continuum of opioid addiction care—formal substance abuse treatment, including counseling, is typically necessary for most people to recover from an opiate addiction and remain sober after completing detox.
Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is an evidence-based practice for opiate addiction that combines medication like methadone or Suboxone with behavioral therapy and counseling to provide comprehensive care.
During MAT, you take methadone in what is known as “methadone maintenance,” meaning that you take it every day while receiving therapy. People may stay on methadone for about a year, though many benefit from it for several years, as it reduces cravings and the risk of relapse. The same can be said for Suboxone, which is a combination formula containing buprenorphine and naloxone. The added component of naloxone deters Suboxone misuse because if you inject this medication, you will go into precipitated opiate withdrawal, which can be very uncomfortable.
If you are ready to jumpstart your recovery, call 800-483-2193(Who Answers?) to speak to a treatment support specialist about opiate detox or opiate addiction treatment.
- National Library of Medicine. (2018). Opioid Misuse and Addiction.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2021). Prescription Opioids DrugFacts.
- American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Substance-related disorders. In Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (pp. 483). American Psychiatric Publishing.
- National Institutes of Health. (2018). Types of Treatment Programs.
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2021). MAT Medications, Counseling, and Related Conditions.
- Dydyk AM, Jain NK, Gupta M. (2022). Opioid Use Disorder. [Updated 2021 Jul 12]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing.
- National Library of Medicine. (2021). Opiate and opioid withdrawal.
- National Library of Medicine. (2018). Opioid Misuse and Addiction Treatment.