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Opiate Detox

Drug and Alcohol Detoxification Treatments

Drug detoxification and drug detox withdrawal therapies have become central to most addiction treatment centers and programs. Drug detoxification is the preliminary therapeutic step that is followed with powerful withdrawal symptoms in the administration of most drug addiction rehabilitation programs.

Today's drug detoxification therapies are more sophisticated than in the past. Different treatment centers offer different detox and detox withdrawal management therapies. Most centers rely on carefully administered and supervised prescription medications to help ease the powerful symptoms.

Withdrawal symptoms affect every patient differently and can last anywhere from a few hours to days and even weeks. The professionally-managed therapy for detox and withdrawal symptoms is a critical first step on the path to recovery.

Most drug or alcohol addicts have unsuccessfully attempted self-treatment for detoxification at some point in their past. Most addicts understand the severity of the symptoms related to the detoxification and withdrawal stages. Sheer willpower is not enough to deal with the detox and withdrawal symptoms for most drug addictions.

Drug Detox Withdrawal Symptoms

Drug detox withdrawal symptoms are powerful and intimidating, even for persons that experience the withdrawal symptoms over a short period of time. This is a dangerous time during rehabilitation when relapse is a strong possibility.

Detoxification and withdrawal should be managed by a professional in the field. Managed administration and supervision usually take place in a dedicated environment in an area of the treatment center or hospital. In most cases, 24/7 professional supervision is necessary until the withdrawal symptoms are more easily managed.

Symptoms of drug detox withdrawal can include any of the following:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Extreme agitation
  • High anxiety
  • Persistent body aches
  • Chills and goose bumps (hence the phrase "cold turkey")
  • Convulsions
  • Hallucinations
  • Enlarged pupils
  • Physical and mental exhaustion
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Incidents of powerful paranoia
  • Seizures
  • Severe negative moods
  • Sweats
  • Tremors
  • Vomiting

Few persons who are not addicted to drugs or alcohol can imagine the powerful side effects of detoxification and the ensuing withdrawal. Some of these symptoms are more dangerous than others. However, progress has been made in the therapeutic approach to detox therapies. Recovering drug addicts do not walk alone on this important journey. It should be noted that addicts rarely experience all of the above-mentioned symptoms.

Prescription Medications Used to Treat Withdrawal Symptoms

The trend in most drug rehabilitation centers is to use prescription medications to ease the symptoms of withdrawal. The duration of prescribed medications ranges and depends upon several factors including the treatment center protocol, the location of the center, the degree of illness, the severity of the symptoms and the nature of the addiction, i.e. what drug is the source of addiction.


Methadone is a long-acting opioid that is addictive and therefore requires professional administration and management. Methadone will only be administered by most rehabilitation centers during acute detox and withdrawal stages and only prescribed to patients with severe symptoms. This medication can be used to ease the patient through the physical dependence.

Methadone has the same effect on the brain as do narcotics and can greatly reduce many withdrawal side effects and symptoms. Administered properly, the symptoms will be eased, the craving will ease and the patient will not experience euphoria. Gradually, the dosage will be tapered to protect the patient from developing another addiction. Methadone is highly addictive if abused. Methadone remains the most efficient and productive medication therapy for the treatment of narcotic addiction.

Subutex and Suboxone

These are relatively new prescription medications usually used to ease detox withdrawal symptoms for opioid addiction. These drugs activate the opioid receptors and help to reduce the powerful opioid craving symptoms. The drugs ease the opioid withdrawal symptoms but can only be administered by professionals who are licensed to administer them.

Rehabilitation treatment centers administer Subutex for the first few days of detox therapy. Suboxone is administered during the maintenance phases of rehabilitation and through the entire withdrawal therapy. As the rehabilitation and treatment progress, the patient is gradually weaned off the Suboxone.


Clonidine is generally used for a specific purpose. Clonidine is not used to reduce craving symptoms but rather to negate the "fight or flight" syndrome that accompanies many patients during detox and withdrawal. Drug addicts who have attempted self-treatment are familiar with this symptom and it is a major reason addicts tend to resist structured rehabilitation.

General Anesthesia

Under certain circumstances, some drug rehabilitation centers administer general anesthesia to ease the patient through detox withdrawal. General anesthesia is usually only used in "rapid detoxā€¯ programs. The use of general anesthesia is a relatively new therapy and has not proven more or less successful than traditional drug detox withdrawal therapies. Many physicians believe general anesthesia to be a higher risk therapy than other medications.

The Goal of Drug Detox Withdrawal Therapies

The goal of drug detox withdrawal therapies is for the patient to cease using addictive substances. The use of medications to ease symptoms present a fine line between easing the symptoms and creating a new addiction. Professional observation, administration and oversight by a licensed physician or nurse is required.

Some patients can undergo detox withdrawal therapies as outpatients but this is a challenging stage with the potential for relapse at any moment. Patients and supporters must understand that addiction is not a personal failing.

Narcotic and opioid addiction alter the way the brain's circuits respond to mood which further alters the brain's reward system. Managing the individual's drug cravings and responses to situations and circumstances is a lifelong pursuit for the recovering addict.

Detoxification and managing detox withdrawal are critical first steps in this lifelong recovery process. The addict who has attempted self-treatment should take heart that these symptoms can be eased when professionally managed.

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