How to Detox from Opiates

Opiates and opioids are a very addictive class of drugs. Despite their addictive nature and the fact that opioids lead to thousands of opioid overdose deaths every year, they continue to be prescribed to patients for pain relief. When someone uses opioids, even as prescribed, it triggers a reward response in their brain that can lead to opioid addiction. The opioid drug class includes heroin, one of the most dangerous drugs in the world. These drugs tend to cause substance use disorder very quickly, and it’s hard to recover once it occurs.

There is another concern along with substance use disorder and respiratory depression, which is physical dependence. Opioids and opiates can cause physical dependence in as little as a few weeks. To stop using opiates when dependent can cause withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal is essentially the body’s way of showing it’s trying to normalize itself. The body and brain are flooded with neurotransmitters at an artificial level when someone regularly uses opioids. Many systems become out of balance as a result. For example, a person may go from experiencing constipation while on opioids to diarrhea during withdrawal. Someone might feel artificially euphoric on opioids, and depressed or anxious during withdrawal. Sedation is a common symptom of opioids, while insomnia is a symptom of withdrawal.

The symptoms of opioid withdrawal are often physically and mentally unpleasant. The process of going through withdrawal when the drugs leave the system is called detox. The body is detoxifying itself and trying to return to a normal state of functionality. For a person to go into opioid addiction treatment, they first have to make it through detox. Unfortunately, it’s a big obstacle for many people. The withdrawal symptoms and drug cravings may win out, and they ultimately relapse. Fortunately, there are treatments, therapies, and medications that can be administered to improve the chances of a successful detox.

When someone goes to a professional detox facility, they have access to a medical team that understands withdrawal and how to make it more manageable. Some of the FDA-approved medications for opiate withdrawal include methadone, buprenorphine and naltrexone. Methadone is one medication that can be administered to reduce opioid withdrawal symptoms and drug cravings, although it tends to become a long-term maintenance treatment. Buprenorphine activates the same opioid receptors in the brain without causing euphoria, and naltrexone blocks opioid receptors to help prevent relapse.
Some people wonder if they can self-treat with valium for opiate withdrawal, or if this is a medication that would be provided in a detox facility. Valium could help some symptoms of opiate withdrawal, such as anxiety and insomnia, but it carries its own set of risks. Valium, which is a brand name version of diazepam, is a benzodiazepine. Valium is potentially addictive, it alters brain chemistry, and it can also cause physical dependence.

Valium is used for alcohol withdrawal, but there are reasons for that. Alcohol withdrawal can lead to deadly seizures, and it’s the most dangerous withdrawals a person can go through. Valium may be necessary to prevent life-threatening withdrawal side effects. Opiate withdrawal isn’t life-threatening in the majority of cases. Since opiate withdrawal isn’t deadly, using valium for opiate withdrawal may cause more harm than good. Valium also depresses the central nervous system, as do opioids. If someone uses Valium and then returns to misusing opioids, they may overdose, or their breathing could stop. In fact, the combination of benzodiazepines like Valium and opioids is one of the leading causes of overdose deaths in the U.S.

Rather than trying to self-medicate using Valium for opiate withdrawal, the safest thing to do is contact a detox facility. Self-medicating through opioid withdrawal can be dangerous or deadly, and it makes it less likely for the individual to be successful in long-term recovery. If you’re interested in learning more about the detox process, and what can be done to ease discomfort during this time, contact The Recovery Village.

Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.

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