Opioid drugs are potent painkillers that help to ease acute and chronic pain. However, they are also highly addictive if misused, taken too frequently, or dosed in large quantities, and their misuse can lead to opioid use disorder (OUD). Further, a majority of deaths related to drug abuse involve opioids.
If someone is struggling with substance abuse disorders, they may need to undergo a detoxification process to stop using opioids safely and effectively. Detoxing from opioids can be a difficult and sometimes painful experience.
It’s crucial to understand what opioid detox involves and the different types of treatment available for individuals looking to get off opioid drugs safely. In this post we will discuss what opioid drugs are, how they can be misused, why Florida is so severely affected, the types of opioid detox treatments, and how Turning Point of Tampa is at the forefront of helping patiens survive symptoms of withdrawal and opiate addiction.
What Are the Different Types of Opioids?
“Opioid” is an umbrella term covering a wide range of drugs, including prescription and illicit drugs. These drugs are narcotic pain relievers that work by attaching to the opioid receptors in the brain and reducing pain signals.
While “opioids” is the more commonly used term, they can also be referred to as opiates. Opiates and opioids are generally used interchangeably, but there are some differences.
Opiates are drugs that are derived from the opium poppy plant. Some of the most commonly used opiates include:
- Opium: This is the most widely abused opiate, and it’s extracted directly from the opium poppy plant. It is typically smoked or taken in liquid form by mouth.
- Morphine: This is a powerful opiate used as an analgesic for severe pain relief and a sedative before surgery.
- Codeine: This is an opiate that can commonly be found in prescription pain medications, cough syrups, and cold medicines.
- Heroin: Heroin is an illegal opiate that’s highly addictive and can be injected, snorted, or smoked. It’s one of the most dangerous drugs on the market because of its high risk of overdose.
Opioids are synthetic drugs created in a lab that act the same way as naturally derived opiates. Examples of synthetic opioids include:
- Fentanyl: Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is many times more powerful than heroin. It’s commonly found in prescription pain medications and can be used as a patch, pill, or injectable liquid.
- Methadone: This synthetic opioid is used to manage severe chronic pain and treat opiate addiction. It can also be taken as a pill, liquid, or wafer.
- Oxycodone: Oxycodone is a powerful opioid used to treat moderate-to-severe pain. It’s commonly found in prescription pain medications such as OxyContin or Percocet.
- Hydrocodone: Hydrocodone is a commonly abused opioid. It’s used to relieve pain and can be found in prescription medications such as Vicodin or Lortab.
The main distinction between these two categories is that most opiates have a long history of medical use. Meanwhile, opioids are often considered more dangerous and addictive as they can be made in various ways. Still, both types can be highly addictive if misused.
Prescription Opioids Vs. Illegal Opioids
There are two main types of opioids that people abuse: prescription opioids and illegal opioids.
Prescription opioids are regulated medications prescribed by a doctor after surgery or an injury or to treat pain, cough, or diarrhea. These are usually prescribed in low doses and can be taken for a short period. Commonly prescribed opioids include morphine, codeine, oxycodone, hydrocodone, and fentanyl.
An illicit opioid is an unregulated drug typically bought illegally on the street or from unlawful sources. These drugs are not legally prescribed by a doctor and are often more potent than prescription opioids, and they can be more dangerous because of their unpredictable or questionable purity. Illicit opioids include heroin, illegally obtained prescription opioids, and illicitly manufactured fentanyl.
It’s essential to understand the differences between the various types of opioids so that you can take steps to prevent an addiction from opioid use and safely detox from opioids if needed.
How Does Opioid Addiction Occur?
Since opioids are incredibly addictive, anyone taking opioids is at risk of becoming addicted. An addiction can occur even if you’re taking the drug as prescribed by your doctor. Typically, opioid dependence occurs when a person takes an opioid in larger amounts or more frequently than directed or for reasons other than pain relief. This causes the brain to adapt to higher levels of opioids and eventually become dependent on them.
Once someone develops opioid dependence, it can be complicated to stop using opioids even if they want to, as the brain and body become accustomed to the drug and need it to function normally. One in four patients treated with opioids in primary care settings develops an addiction, which is why an opioid detox can be difficult without medical intervention.
Why is the Opioid Epidemic in Florida so Severe?
The opioid epidemic in Florida is one of the most severe in the country, and it came in three waves.
The first wave was an increase in prescription opioid abuse starting in the early 1990s. The Tampa Bay area became ground zero of Florida’s opioid crisis as the area saw a dramatic rise in pill mills.
The second wave was the emergence of heroin use, starting around the early 2000s. Different sectors collaborated to make prescription drugs harder to procure, reducing the supply of opioids in Florida. This change led to an increase in heroin use instead. People addicted to prescription opioids began turning to this cheaper alternative as it was more accessible.
The third wave followed shortly after and was marked by an increase in synthetic opioids across Tampa and the country. This was mainly due to the rise of fentanyl, which is a synthetic opioid that’s much more powerful than heroin and other drugs.
The opioid epidemic in Florida has seen a different kind of opioid grow more rampant with each wave. Additionally, each wave has been more severe than the last and brought a surge of opioid-related deaths to the state.
What Is Opioid Dependence?
The effects of opioid drugs, whether they are prescribed or obtained illegally, are irresistible in many people. This is because opioids affect the reward system in the brain, creating an intense feeling of pleasure for the user.
The body eventually adjusts to opioid drugs and builds tolerance if the user abuses the drug in large amounts. As a result, the user must take increasingly larger or more frequent doses of opioids to get the same effect as before. This is known as opioid dependence, one of the main symptoms of addiction.
Opioid dependence can be mild or severe depending on how much and how long a person has been using. People who have been using opioids for a long time and in high doses may find it almost impossible to quit without help.
Physical dependence occurs when your body becomes used to having a certain level of opioids in its system, leading you to experience withdrawal symptoms if you stop taking them.
When you’re physically dependent on opioids, regular doses are necessary to avoid unpleasant withdrawal symptoms such as nausea, sweating, vomiting, and shaking. It’s important to note that physical dependence is not the same as addiction.
Psychological dependence is when a person becomes emotionally dependent on opioids and uses them to cope with stress or emotional pain. People who are psychologically dependent on opioids will often ignore their addiction’s consequences, thinking they can quit anytime they want.
When someone suffers from psychological dependency, quitting the drug can be even more difficult than when the person is only physically dependent. Psychological dependence can cause intense drug cravings and make it hard to focus on anything else. It can also lead to emotional and behavioral changes, such as lying or stealing money to purchase opioids.
What Is Opiate Withdrawal?
If you cut back or stop taking opioids after being dependent on them, your body will react unpleasantly. This is known as opiate withdrawal, which signifies that your body has become used to the presence of the drug.
Opiate withdrawal is the body’s response to not having opioids in its system. It usually begins within a few hours after you stop taking opioid drugs and can last for weeks or even months, depending on how long and how much of the drug was used.
What Are the Opiate Withdrawal Symptoms?
Opiate withdrawal signs and symptoms can range from mild to severe, depending on how much of the drug was taken, how long you took for it, and where you are in the withdrawal timeline.
You may notice the following withdrawal symptoms when you’re going through opiate withdrawal.
Early Withdrawal Symptoms
When you first stop taking opioids, you may experience mild physical or mental symptoms, such as:
- Agitation and irritability
- Muscle aches and pains
- Watery eyes and runny nose
- Insomnia or difficulty sleeping
Severe Withdrawal Symptoms
As your withdrawal symptoms peak, more severe withdrawal signs may appear. These signs and symptoms can be intense and include:
- Fever or chills
- Intense cravings for opioids
- Rapid heart rate and breathing
- Changes in blood pressure
It’s important to note that opiate withdrawal isn’t life-threatening, but it can be very uncomfortable and challenging to manage without professional help.
If you’re suffering from an opiate addiction, it’s vital to seek help from a professional to reduce withdrawal symptoms and get the treatment you need. Turning Point of Tampa has been helping people recover since 1987 and our team of professionals is ready to help you or your loved one any time.
What Is the Opioid Withdrawal Timeline?
The opioid withdrawal timeline varies from person to person but is generally divided into four stages.
1. Anticipatory Stage
The anticipatory stage usually begins three to four hours after your last dose of opioids. This is when symptoms such as cravings and anxiety appear, which can be intense. The fear of the coming withdrawal symptoms can be just as tough to deal with and can lead to drug-seeking behavior.
2. Early Withdrawal Stage
The early withdrawal stage typically starts around 8 to 10 hours after your last dose of opioids. This stage usually involves mild symptoms, including anxiety, agitation, and restlessness. Additionally, you may have nausea, stomach pains, vomiting, muscle aches, and profuse sweating at this stage. The cravings will still be intense and can become overwhelming.
3. Peak Withdrawal Stage
The fully developed acute stage occurs one to three days after your last dose when the opioid withdrawal stage peaks at this stage. Drug cravings will be at their strongest, as will physical symptoms like muscle spasms, body tremors, diarrhea, insomnia, and higher blood pressure. You may also experience intense psychological symptoms such as depression or anxiety.
4. Post-acute Withdrawal Stage (PAWS)
The post-acute withdrawal stage can last weeks or sometimes months after the last dose. The acute withdrawal signs have generally subsided during PAWS, and the mental and physical symptoms can be more manageable. However, you may still experience irritability, agitation, depression, anxiety, and insomnia during this phase. Drug cravings may occasionally arise and the chances of relapse are still very high.
It’s important to note that the timeline of opioid withdrawal can vary from person to person, and it is best to consult a professional addiction specialist for accurate information on how long you may experience these symptoms.
What Are the Medications Used To Treat Opiate Addiction?
Medical treatment for opiate addiction often centers around medications that can help reduce withdrawal symptoms, curb cravings, and stabilize moods. These medications are generally used with other therapies and treatments to help you cope with the physical and psychological effects of addiction detox.
Most medication-assisted treatment options include opioid agonists and opioid antagonists. An opioid agonist is a medication that binds to opioid receptors in the brain and can produce effects similar to opioids. In contrast, an opioid antagonist blocks those receptors and prevents opioids from having any effect.
Some medications commonly used in opioid treatment programs include the following.
Clonidine is an opioid antagonist that helps to restrain withdrawal symptoms like anxiety, stress, and high blood pressure. It comes as a tablet taken orally or as a patch applied to the skin. Since clonidine has a low potential for dependence and abuse, it can be taken over an extended period and is easy to discontinue when the withdrawal symptoms have subsided.
Naltrexone is an opioid antagonist that helps to reduce cravings and inhibit the effects of opioids in the brain. As with clonidine, there is a low risk of addiction and abuse associated with naltrexone, making it an effective long-term treatment option for opioid addiction. Naltrexone maintenance also helps minimize the chances of relapse and prevent future opioid abuse.
Lofexidine is another opioid antagonist that helps to reduce the physical symptoms of opioid withdrawal. It is an analog of clonidine. It also effectively reduces opioid withdrawal symptoms with less hypotensive and sedating effects than clonidine. When combined with a low dose of another opioid antagonist called naloxone, lofexidine can also reduce opioid cravings and prevent relapse.
Buprenorphine Maintenance Treatment
Buprenorphine is a partial opioid agonist that is used in the treatment of opioid addiction. It helps to reduce cravings, relieve withdrawal symptoms, and prevent relapse without producing the same effects as other opioids.
As a partial agonist, buprenorphine is less prone to abuse than full opioid agonists and can safely treat opioid addiction in the long term. It has a “ceiling effect” that prevents the user from getting a “high” no matter how much of the drug is taken. Buprenorphine maintenance treatment is often used instead of methadone maintenance in detox settings.
What Is Opioid Detoxification?
Attempting to quit “cold turkey,” or abruptly stopping the use of opioids, can be dangerous and even life-threatening. Self-detoxing is also not recommended for opioid abusers, and both can cause severe withdrawal symptoms that make it very difficult for someone to stay clean. That’s why medical detox is essential for those trying to break free from addiction.
Opioid detoxification is the process of reducing or eliminating opioid use to stop dependence and symptoms of withdrawal. It’s a gradual process of clearing toxins that may require medical supervision. During detox treatment programs, medications and other therapies are used to help manage the physical and psychological effects of opioid withdrawal.
Opioid detox is an essential first step for those looking to overcome opioid abuse and addiction and is a vital part of recovery. However, opioid detox should not be viewed as a stand-alone treatment or the end goal of recovery since it’s only the first stage in overcoming opioid addiction. After opioid detox, an individual needs to move on to more comprehensive treatments, such as rehabilitation or therapy, to stay clean successfully.
What Are the Goals of Detoxification?
The primary goal of opioid detox is to safely reduce or eliminate the use of opioids while minimizing the symptoms of withdrawal. Detox helps to manage the physical and psychological effects of opioid addiction while allowing individuals to begin their recovery journey.
Detox can also be used as a bridge between active addiction and long-term treatment. Many people who are going through opioid withdrawal can benefit from medications and other therapies that are used during detox. This treatment can help reduce cravings while providing the necessary support to get individuals through the complex detox process.
Medical detox is the safest and most effective way to manage opioid withdrawal symptoms and reduce the risks associated with abruptly stopping opioids.
It’s important to remember that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to opioid detox, as each individual will respond differently depending on their specific medical needs and level of addiction.
What Are the Different Types of Detox Programs?
Opioid use disorder treatment should be done under medical supervision to ensure a safe withdrawal. There are several types of detox options available, and it’s crucial to find one that best fits your needs.
The process of getting clean from opioids can be daunting and painful. That’s why detox and treatment options are designed to keep you safe and comfortable and provide the necessary support to get you through the physical and psychological effects of withdrawal.
Opioid detox programs can vary in length and intensity depending on the individual’s specific needs. The most common types of opioid treatment options include the following.
Inpatient detox programs offer a safe medical environment for individuals to go through opioid withdrawal. These programs provide 24-hour medical supervision and can include medications, therapies, and other treatments to help manage withdrawal symptoms.
Inpatient settings provide a safer and faster detox process as individuals have constant medical attention and support. They also offer drug abuse education and intensive counseling sessions to help individuals address the underlying causes of opiate addiction.
Turning Point of Tampa offers an inpatient detox program. We are an in network provider with most insurance companies so the rates have been pre determined by your insurance company. Our medical and clinical team is committed to getting patients through symptoms of withdrawal safely.
Outpatient Detox Programs
Outpatient detox programs are less intensive than inpatient programs but do not offer the 24 hour medical supervision. For some remaining at home or elsewhere while going through the detoxification process is helpful, whereas other need to be in a secure and safe environment away from their daily lives.
An outpatient detox setting requires an individual to have a higher level of self-discipline and commitment to succeed. Unfortunately, relapse rates are generally higher in outpatient settings, and progress can be much slower than in an inpatient setting.
Outpatient programs can include medications, counseling, support groups, and other forms of therapy to help individuals manage withdrawal symptoms.
Medication-assisted Treatment (MAT)
MAT mainly uses FDA-approved medications, such as those listed above, to treat opioid abuse and addiction. These medications help relieve withdrawal symptoms, reduce cravings, and block the effects of opioids.
MAT is often used in conjunction with inpatient and outpatient treatment.
At Turning Point of Tampa we believe in medication assisted treatment but we do not believe in using medication that can be abused or that is addictive. We focus on using Vivitrol and Naltrexone to control cravings. Those 2 substances can be used long-term and if appropriate we do start patients on those medications while they are in our care and in the treatment process.
Turning Point of Tampa has found through years of experience working with alcoholics and drug addicts many will find a way to abuse any medication that has a mood altering impact or effect. For this reason we do not offer Suboxone or Subutex for ongoing treatment. People might disagree with that statement but our doctors and clinical professionals listen to the drug addicts coming in seeking help. Unfortunately many abuse both Suboxone and Subutex telling us they feel high when they take it.
Our doctors might prescribe Suboxone or more accurately Subutex for the detox and withdrawal process in our detox unit if indicated but patients are off all medications including sedatives and benzodiazepines prior to discharge from treatment.
Next Steps After Detoxification
Opioid detox is just the first stage in the recovery process. It’s crucial to have a plan for further treatment for what to do after detoxification is completed.
At Turning Point of Tampa, most enter into our residential program followed by our Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) for a full continuum of care.
An individual treatment plan is also a vital part of the recovery process. This will include therapies and counseling that address the underlying causes of opioid abuse and any other mental health issues that may be present. With a personalized treatment plan, you will have more significant long-term success in maintaining sobriety.
It’s also important to remember that recovery is a lifelong process, and relapse is a real possibility. With a focus on building long-term recovery, a supportive network of family and friends that can help support and maintain your sobriety is crucial. You may also attend meetings with support groups like Narcotics Anonymous (NA) or find others in recovery who can provide support and guidance.
Getting the Help You Need at Turning Point of Tampa
Opioid abuse, dependence, and addiction are serious issues that require expert help and guidance. Fortunately, opioid detox is available to help individuals safely and effectively cleanse their bodies of opioids.
It’s also essential to continue with follow-up care afterward to prevent relapse in the future. Detoxing from opioids can be a challenging experience, but with the right support, it is possible to manage withdrawal symptoms and begin the journey of recovery safely.
If you are struggling with opioid abuse, know there is help and hope. Detoxification is just one step in recovery, but it can be a critical first step in achieving long-term sobriety.
At Turning Point of Tampa, we understand the challenges of addiction and provide comprehensive inpatient treatment programs to help individuals achieve lasting sobriety. Our experienced professionals are dedicated to helping you find the path that will work best for your unique needs and situation.
By working together, we can help you find the treatment and support you need to regain a healthy, substance-free life. Contact us and start your journey toward recovery today!