Guide to Opioid Withdrawal & Detox

in Drug Insights
Published Oct 21, 2020

Opiates are used to manage moderate to severe pain. People taking opiates should exercise caution because of their addictive nature and tendency to cause withdrawal symptoms when stopped. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in recent years there has been a dramatic increase in the use of prescription opioids for the treatment of chronic pain despite serious risks and the lack of evidence about their long-term effectiveness.

What is an opiate?

Opiates are a narcotic class of drug (also referred to as opioids), that are either derived from the opium poppy plant or synthetically manufactured. They are used illicitly (to get high), or can be used medically to help reduce pain for chronic pain patients or those recovering from surgery. They can also be used to induce sleep. 

Some of the most potent opioids that are manufactured and prescribed by physicians include:

  • Fentanyl
  • Oxycodone (Oxycontin or Percocet)
  • Hydrocodone (Vicodin)
  • Hydromorphone (Diluadid)
  • Morphine (Oramorph)
  • Meperidine (Demerol)
  • Methadone (Dolophine or Methadose)
  • Fentanyl (Abstral, Actiq, Fentora)
  • Carfentanyl

Illicit opiates include heroin and the use of manufactured opioids for recreational purposes.

Opioid street names

Street names for opioids include:

  • Apache
  • Black tar heroin
  • Big whites
  • China
  • China Girl
  • China White
  • Captain Cody
  • Cody
  • Chill pills
  • Dance Fever
  • Demmies
  • Dillies
  • Drop
  • Doors & Fours
  • Footballs
  • Friend
  • Greenies
  • God’s drug
  • Goodfella
  • Hillbilly heroin
  • Little C
  • Loads
  • M30s
  • Morpho
  • Oxy
  • Oxycat
  • Oxy80
  • Pancakes & Syrup
  • Percs
  • Perks
  • Purple drank
  • Roxy
  • Rrcs
  • Rims
  • Schoolboy
  • Smack
  • Tango & cash
  • TNT
  • Trammies

Opiates are potentially dangerous because they have the greatest potential for misuse, which can cause dependence, addiction, and even death if used inappropriately. Opioids are problematic because these drugs affect the pleasure center of the brain, causing euphoria but also physical dependence, meaning when a person stops taking them they may experience unpleasant side effects or withdrawal symptoms. 

Opioid side effects

The CDC states that anyone taking a prescription opioid can become addicted to them and as any as one in four patients receiving long-term opioid therapy may struggle with opioid addiction. In 2016, more than 11.5 million Americans reported misusing opioids in the previous 12 months. 

The most serious side effect of opioid misuse is that they can stop a person’s breathing, leading to death. The other main side effects include:

  • Confusion
  • Constipation
  • Dependence
  • Depression
  • Dizziness
  • Itching
  • Increased sensitivity to pain
  • Physical dependence
  • Sleepiness
  • Sweating
  • Tolerance
Opioid withdrawal facts

Common opioid detox and withdrawal symptoms may include: 

  • Muscle aches
  • Inability to sleep
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Excessive sweating
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • High blood pressure
  • Anxiety
  • Restlessness
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Teary eyes
  • Blurry vision
  • Goosebumps on the skin

We can help overcome uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms through effective, safe, and comfortable medical detox provided by addiction experts. Our patients are rarely uncomfortable because we provide an individualized plan for each patient and their needs. 

Risks of home detox

In this instance, detox is the process of stopping using substance and detoxifying the body at home, without medical intervention. Due to the number of health risks associated with home detox, it is not advised by medical professionals. It can be particularly dangerous to suddenly stop drinking or taking drugs cold turkey, rather than tapering off.

Home detox is rarely successful because the side effects of stopping are so unpleasant that the risk of relapse is high.

It is strongly advised by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to seek professional intervention, especially if the person has been using substances persistently, to ensure they overcome risks of home detox.

“For alcohol, sedative-hypnotic, and opioid withdrawal syndromes, hospitalization or some form of 24-hour medical care is generally the preferred setting for detoxification, based upon the principles of safety and humanitarian concerns.” SAMHSA Detoxification and Substance Abuse Treatment Improvement Protocol, TIP 45

Again, there are a number of risks of home detox. This is particularly prevalent with alcohol detox and benzodiazepine detox. Medically-monitored detox centers are a crucial aspect of the recovery process. It ensures that the person is treated safely and reduces the risk of complications that might arise from the detox process. According to SAMHSA, almost 80 percent of professional detoxification uses medication to ease withdrawal symptoms.

Opiate addiction treatment 

There are various types of opiate detox. Depending on the severity of use, a detox is usually recommended. According to medical experts, treatment for any opiate dependence should not discontinue the drug too early and a successful withdrawal strategy should be implemented. 

A medically supervised detox occurs in an inpatient medical detox center or hospital. The benefits of admission are that medically trained professionals are able to closely monitor a person’s progress, administer any medications when necessary, and provide a safe and comfortable environment for the often painful and difficult process of withdrawal.

For more information about choosing the right program, you might find our blogs How to Choose An Opiate Detox Center and What to Expect from a Medical Detox helpful.

The Gallus Method of Opiate detox

Gallus Medical Detox provides the comfort of a residential facility, but with clinical expertise that is far superior to most detox facilities. We offer safe, effective, and personalized treatment. In fact, we are so proud of our proprietary method that we named it The Gallus Method.

The key features of Gallus Medical Detox include:

  • Individual treatment plans, with a focus on personalized sobriety
  • Psychological, physical, and social assessments
  • IV Therapy Program
  • 24/7 medical supervision
  • Cardiac telemetry and video technology
  • Ongoing adjustments to treatment plans in order to suit our patients’ needs
  • An individual aftercare plan identifying resources and next steps toward a long-term recovery

We have addiction treatment centers in Arizona and Colorado, with more opening in coming months.

Next steps

While detox is usually the first step in recovery, it’s not a cure for addiction. Immediately following detox, behavioral therapy and other addiction treatments should occur while the person is ready to engage in recovery. You might find our blog Vital Steps to Take After Detox helpful. 

For more information on opioid treatment, click here