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Opioid Drug Detox Symptoms


Opioids are a hard drug to kick. The withdrawal is terrible and popular culture (where we get so much of our understanding about the world) really plays that up. I bet you are familiar with the cold turkey approach, where someone locks themselves in a room or gets tied or chained somewhere and goes through 24 hours of torture as they come down off of their drug of choice. Drugs are thrown in the trash or down the toilet and bottles of alcohol pour into the sink. After this, the character has usually broken free of their demons. But, you know that isn’t the way that the world works.

Opioid drug detox is so terrible because your body’s dependence on the drug may require months of medically supervised detox to fully break free. The withdrawal is crazy difficult and it isn’t over in a mere 24 hours. You have to really weather a storm. But, the good news is that opioid addicts go through detox every day and make it out the other side.

The NIDA estimates between 26.4 million and 36 million people abuse opioids globally. Of these, 2.1 million people in the United States suffer from substance use disorders related to prescription opioid pain relievers, and an estimated 467,000 people are addicted to heroin. Not all of these people will get clean, but many of them will.

When you go through detox, the symptoms that you face will be those of withdrawal and you can make it through them. If you are ready to take the first step toward sobriety, it is time to contact and look into receiving help with your opioid detox process.

For help locating detox programs and resources, contact and speak with someone today.

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Opioid Drug Detox & Withdrawal

Because the symptoms of detox are actually the symptoms of withdrawal, it is important to know how withdrawal works.

When you begin using opioids, your brain is flooded with feel good chemicals that cause euphoria; that’s what creates the sensation of being high. Your brain releases a chemical called dopamine and it floods all of these little receptors in your brain. Then that dopamine goes back to where it came from; it recycles. Well, drugs stop it from recycling and cause all the dopamine to pool up on your brain and extend the time that you feel good.

When your brain is covered in feel good dopamine, it is being rewarded. The brain likes that and it makes a memory of the sensation, what caused it, and the environment in which it was caused. From that point on, your brain will associate feeling good with those things. The more you use, the stronger that association.

Over time, the brain develops tolerance and it takes more and more opioid use to get the same effect. In fact, you get to the point where the only time you feel good is with the opioids in your system. You know what this is like. Tolerance is what leads to withdrawal. When you have built up your tolerance, your brain needs those opioids and it will punish you for not providing them.


When you begin to detox from opioids, the U.S. National Library of Medicine reports you will experience the following early and late stage symptoms. You can look for the symptoms to begin within 12 hours of last heroin usage and within 30 hours of last methadone exposure.

Early symptoms of withdrawal include:

Opioid Drug Detox

Agitation and nausea are common opioid withdrawal symptoms.

  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Muscle aches
  • Increased tearing
  • Insomnia
  • Runny nose
  • Sweating
  • Yawning

Late symptoms of withdrawal include:

  • Abdominal cramping
  • Diarrhea
  • Dilated pupils
  • Goose bumps
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

These symptoms will be uncomfortable, to say the least, but they are not life threatening. You will make it through them.

Medically Assisted Treatment

One way to cope with withdrawal symptoms can be with detox medication. Methadone is commonly prescribed and suboxone is a fairly new medication with great promise. Medication trick your brain into thinking it is getting the opioids it wants and that limits the withdrawal symptoms.

If you are interested in managing your detox with medication, contact and speak with someone who can connect you with resources. Call 800-996-6135(Who Answers?) .


  1. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2014). America’s Addiction to Opioids: Heroin and Prescription Drug Abuse.
  2. U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2016). Opiate and Opioid Withdrawal. 
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