Opiate Detoxification: The First step in Treatment
As the title suggests, Opiate Detoxification is not a treatment but rather a first step in dealing with the acute withdrawal associated with Opiate Dependence.
Opiate withdrawal lasts five to seven days with the third day being the worst.
Opiate withdrawal Symptoms include runny eyes, stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, goose flesh and general agitation as well as sleep disturbance and drug craving.
Essentially, it feels like the flu on steroids.
We use a slow methadone or Suboxone taper, usually lasting 10-21 days, to deal with these symptoms. What "gets" people in terms of relapse is not the acute withdrawal but rather the craving which we understand, based on brain scan technology, happens in the same part of the brain as hunger and thirst.
When you are hungry you eat, when you are thirsty you drink water, and when you crave drugs you use drugs.
If after detoxification there is not a second step such as individual counseling, outside group counseling such as AA,NA, CA and a program that can help with the triggers to use, relapse is imminent.
This is a chronic relapsing disease. Thinking that after detox opiate dependence will always simply go away is misguided at best.
Often opiate dependence requires long term treatment with either Methadone of Suboxone.
We encourage detoxification if our patients so desire, but we will also be there to help if detoxification is not enough.