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What are Opioids?

Opioids are a strong class of naturally occurring and synthetic drugs.  These drugs are widely used for their pain management capabilities.  However, opioids can cause sedative and euphoria-inducing effects, making them a target of substance abuse.  

As a result, illicit opioids like heroin and fentanyl and other legal varieties such as codeine, oxycodone, hydrocodone have become popular recreational drugs.  An opiate detox will be the first stage of treatment for you to stop using these drugs, and begin a lifelong recovery.

In the recent decade, the number of opioid-related fatalities has skyrocketed, accounting for nearly 70% of drug-related overdoses in 2018.  These numbers include illicit and prescription opioid drugs – but it has primarily been the latter that has driven the ongoing epidemic crisis in the United States that national, state, and local governments have been working diligently to address.  Unfortunately, the hundreds of thousands of individuals who are already physically dependent on these substances must face the reality of opiate detox, withdrawal, and rehab if they can get their recovery on track and build a better life.

Opiate Detox
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Opioid Overdose Crisis

In 2019, nearly 50,000 people in the United States died from opioid-involved overdoses. The misuse of and addiction to opioids—including prescription pain relievers, heroin, and synthetic opioids such as fentanyl—is a serious national crisis that affects public health as well as social and economic welfare.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that the total “economic burden” of prescription opioid misuse alone in the United States is $78.5 billion a year, including the costs of healthcare, lost productivity, addiction treatment, and criminal justice involvement. [1]

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How to Detox from Opiates?

Opioid Addiction Treatment Starts with Detox

When the substance is suddenly absent, the body responds with unpleasant withdrawal symptoms ranging from flu-like to potentially fatal.  For this reason, it is highly advisable to slowly taper off opioid use rather than quitting cold turkey and ideally, with the supervision of a medical professional.  Fortunately, several opioid antagonists are available to help beat opioid addiction at the more difficult stages.  These medications can help mitigate opioid withdrawal effects or intervene in the instance of an opium overdose.


Naloxone is the generic name of a drug that can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose.  It works by connecting itself to the same receptors occupied by the harmful opioids and taking their place.  By interrupting the connection between the harmful opioid and the receptor, the adverse effects of an overdose can immediately be reversible.  This can be life-saving, namely by recovering the ability to breathe.

Naloxone is available as an injectable liquid and as a nasal spray.  The most common brand names include Narcan and Evizo.  This medication is only effective if administered when an overdose happens and cannot be used pre-emptively to prevent an opioid overdose.


Buprenorphine can activate opioid receptors and relieve cravings without eliciting any surge of euphoria.  Being an opioid itself, it can fulfill the receptors’ physical need to be stimulated but does so without generating feelings of euphoria, the leading cause of addiction-forming behavior.

This ensures that no high will manifest, effectively eliminating the likelihood of addiction, and also limiting the effects of other opioids that you have taken.

This medication functions similarly to methadone, another opioid antagonist that is commonly available to treat opioid dependence.  However, methadone has recently fallen out of favor as a treatment for opioid addiction due to its potential for being habit-forming.  As such, it has largely been a replacement in turn of buprenorphine in addiction treatment settings.


Suboxone is a brand-name drug composed of naloxone and buprenorphine to treat opioid dependence, not just manage the symptoms.  The buprenorphine component enables it to lessen any persisting opioid cravings – the primary side effect of opioid detox or withdrawal.

The presence of naloxone allows Suboxone to take treatment a step further.  Instead of reversing the symptoms of an overdose, naloxone acts as a restraint to further opioid abuse. 

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Opiate Withdrawal Symptoms

  • Nausea
  • Sweats and Chills
  • Soreness and aching in muscles and bones
  • Sinus Issues
  • Fatigue and Loss of Energy
  • Agitation and Restlessness
  • Vomiting and Diarrhea

Not every individual will experience the same withdrawal symptoms.  Depending on the answers to the following items, withdrawal may be more prolonged and more severe or shorter and less intense.  Factors to consider include:

  • How long a person has been dependent on opiates
  • The type of opiate the person is dependent on
  • The frequency and severity of opiate abuse
  • Underlying medical conditions
  • The co-occurring existence of a psychological health issue
  • Highly stressful and unsupportive surroundings

Opioid drug withdrawal mostly adheres to a specific timeline, although the factors listed above may cause some variation.  In general, the withdrawal symptoms typically peak within 48-72 hours and subside within a period of 5 to 10 days.  

Opiate Withdrawal Timeline

The onset, duration, and intensity of withdrawal symptoms of the opiated detox process, will be different for each person, but the general opiate withdrawal timeline includes the following:

  • 8-12 hours: Anxiety, agitation, watery eyes, runny nose, and increased sweating.
  • 12-24 hours: Nausea, stomach cramps, vomiting, diarrhea, goosebumps, and dilated pupils.
  • 36-72 hours: Symptoms peak and then gradually subside over the next few days.

The period and extent of withdrawal symptoms also depend on whether the opioid is long-acting or short-acting.  Heroin is relatively short-acting compared to other opiates.  Therefore, heroin withdrawal symptoms appear just hours after the last dose and may last for a shorter period.  On the other hand, longer-acting opioid painkillers may not provoke withdrawal symptoms till some days after the final amount, and some symptoms may last for weeks.

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Medical Detox from Opiates

Treatment programs for opioids addiction usually start with detoxification from the drug, followed by either inpatient treatment or some specified procedure of organized outpatient treatment.

Only a finely managed treatment facility provides a controlled and comfortable setting where drug detox can occur; while providing opiate withdrawal support and medications to help decrease the possibility of complications and difficulties associated with opiate withdrawal.  Opiate detox centers such as We Level Up New Jersey also offer multiple levels of treatment for an easy transition following the completion of an opiate detox program.

Amenities at our New Jersey facilities include semi-private rooms, luxurious bathrooms, spacious common areas for socializing; a communal dining area that is always full of nutritious snacks, and much more!

Opiate Detox from Home

Opioids detox at home can be difficult and sometimes unproductive.  Unaided withdrawal may not be life-threatening, but it is a significant possibility of leading to relapse.  When opioid substances such as oxycodone and heroin begin to leave the human blood system, they develop severe cravings for the substance.  Intense cravings mixed with unpleasant flu-like symptoms can make it easy for someone going through withdrawal at home to give up and relapse before their recovery gets in its way. 

Opiate Detox Process

The opiate detoxification process is not the same as detoxing from other addictive substances, such as alcohol or cocaine.  The withdrawal symptoms are different, and medications are often available to help minimize the physical withdrawal symptoms. This prevents the intense cravings accompanying opiate detox. Detox from heroin, fentanyl, and prescription opioids is a closely managed process, and often the same or similar medications are continued to be used following detox.

Medications such as Subutex and Suboxone have the official approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) exclusively to treat opioid dependence. Furthermore, the opiate detox process will be different for individuals who are detoxing via medically assisted treatment versus abstinence.

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Additional Medications for a Comfortable Opiate Detox

  • Methadone:  Relieves and reduces the unpleasant impact of withdrawal symptoms.  It is also used as long-term maintenance therapy for those addicted to opioids.
  • Naltrexone:  blocks the effects of opioids and is helpful to induce withdrawal. However, it does not let the opioid intake affect the individual.  Therefore, it may also be used to avert future dependence and misuse.
  • Clonidine:  Can help diminish the flu-like symptoms that come with opioid withdrawal, along with other withdrawal symptoms such as the anxiety and agitation most people experience.

Other medications are also available for stomach cramps, diarrhea, insomnia, anxiety, and depression.

Medical opioid detox helps smooth the withdrawal process, reduce side effects, prevent serious complications, and lessens opioid cravings.  Overall, these medications offer a decent start towards recovery and help to maintain sobriety long-term.  However, detox has to be followed with counseling, education and awareness, family and individual therapy; and support groups that can aid an individual in their attempt to stop using drugs and continue sobriety.

NJ Opiate Detox Treatment, What to Expect?

Our opioid addiction treatment center is here to help individuals complete the opiate detox process and address psychological, physical, and spiritual issues connected to drug abuse.  Qualified doctors, nurses, therapists, and addiction cases managers will be with you throughout the recovery process to ensure you have the support you need in your Opiate detox process.

If you or a loved one is dealing with dependence or addiction to opioids, contact our treatment support at We Level Up NJ to find the best treatment option with opiate detox for you.

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[1] Opioid Overdose Crisis – National Institute on Drug Abuse