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Opiate Detox Protocol: What to Expect in Detox

If you or someone you love is addicted to an opiate such as heroin or a prescription painkiller, chances are you have already considered taking the steps to getting sober. Opiate detox is the first step, but it can also be one of the most challenging steps of the recovery process as you are faced with a number of emotional and physical symptoms of withdrawal which make continued abstinence difficult to achieve. Understanding the opiate detox protocol can help you to feel at ease with your decision and with your recovery efforts.

Speak with a treatment specialist to gain a better understanding of opiate detox, and for help finding a program that meets your needs.

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Assessing the Problem

Opiate Detox Protocol

Following some opiate detox guidelines can help you overcome withdrawal!

The first opiate detox protocol is to assess the problem and define a course of action to help the patient recover. According to the British Psychological Society, a step-by-step process of assessment will be used to determine the severity of the patient’s addiction, the individual needs of the patient and how to proceed with treatment. Assessment tools help the doctor or treatment specialist to determine the severity of the withdrawal and to make conclusions as to the best course of action for treatment.

Determining a Course of Treatment

The second step in the opiate detox protocol is to determine a method of treatment that will be most effective for the patient based on the results of the assessment. Various factors are considered in determining a course of treatment including:

  • The presence of any underlying health conditions.
  • The severity of the withdrawal symptoms at present state.
  • The projected severity of withdrawal symptoms based on severity of addiction and type of drug regularly abused.
  • The determination and commitment of the patient.
  • Past mental and physical health as well as past drug use history.
  • Determined or estimated potential for repeat substance use or relapse.

Types of Treatment

Once the condition has been thoroughly assessed by a healthcare provider, and a course of action for treatment has been defined, the patient will begin to receive quality detox services. There are a number of options available at this time including:

  • Medication replacement or medication maintenance programs such as MMT or Suboxone.
  • Clonidine or other medications to help reduce withdrawal time or alleviate withdrawal symptoms.
  • Supportive care that aims at helping the patient to remain abstinent.
  • Counseling and therapy which will aim to reduce the risk for relapse.
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy is a proven effective treatment for opiate addiction.

Ultimately, your recovery from opiate addiction will depend greatly on the early care that you receive during detox. If you are committed and ready to do what it takes to get sober, there’s a good chance you can find your way down a clear path of recovery.

Find opiate detox programs in your area by searching our directory, or by calling our treatment helpline: 800-996-6135(Who Answers?)


  1. British Psychological Society. (2008). Drug Misuse: Opioid Detoxification- Pharmacological and Physical Interventions in Opioid Detoxification. 
  2. World Health Organization. (2009). Clinical Guidelines for Withdrawal Management and Treatment of Drug Dependence in Closed Settings. 6 Methadone Maintenance Treatment. 
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