Dangers of Attempting Opiate Detox Cold Turkey

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opiate detox cold turkey

So you have had it with the opiate addiction. You are done. Arriving at this crossroads is cause for celebration because it means you value your life and want to break free of these deadly drugs in order to reclaim it. But approaching this momentous decision impulsively will surely not result in a successful outcome. Opiate addiction or dependence has seriously altered your brain chemistry, so the process of safely stopping using the drug and sustaining sobriety requires careful planning.

The detoxification process is all about preparing you for treatment. Detox is not a one off event after which you just walk away assuming you are cured of the addiction to opiates. No, it doesn’t work that way, unfortunately. Detox simply prepares the mind and body for rehab, allowing for stabilization and mental clarity before doing the important work in recovery. Beginning the day you commit to getting clean, a plan for detoxification, rehabilitation, and aftercare must be made.

Approaching opiate detox cold turkey is bound to end badly. Not only will highly unpleasant, painful, and even dangerous withdrawal symptoms hit you hard, but it is doubtful you will be able to endure the suffering long enough to complete the detox. This is the purpose of a structured medically-monitored detox process—to guide you safely through the withdrawal symptoms. By providing a safe tapering schedule, medical interventions to alleviate discomfort, psychological support, and medication-assisted treatment your chances of success will skyrocket.

Why Opiate Detox Cold Turkey is a Bad Idea

Like the famous “frog in the pot” analogy, addiction sneaks up on a person. It is impossible for the individual in active addiction to truly grasp what is going on with their brain chemistry and central nervous system. These alterations occur behind the scenes, slowly adapting to the daily influx of the opiate.

When making the decision to quit the drug, it may seem feasible to simply stop on your own. This would be a mistake on all fronts, but mostly because the end result will not be the one you desire, to be free of the addiction. Instead, the withdrawal symptoms will be so unbearable that within a day or two you return to using just to save yourself from the suffering. All hope of overcoming the opiate addiction vanishes into thin air.

Opiate detox cold turkey is not only unwise, it is also somewhat dangerous. Withdrawal symptoms can be unpredictable, including psychological symptoms that could include suicidal thoughts. The dangers of opiate detox cold turkey include:

  • Intense physical and psychological cravings
  • Relapse
  • Severe anxiety
  • Overdose
  • Suicidal behaviors

For these reasons, obtaining a supervised medical detox for opiate withdrawal is always recommended.

Medical Opiate Detox

There are several benefits of a medical detox for opiate withdrawal. These trained specialists can help get you through the detox process with medical and psychological support. By consistent monitoring of vital signs and withdrawal symptoms, the detox team will administer the needed interventions on an ongoing manner.

The detox period will take 7-10 days on average, and withdrawal severity will vary depending on the acuity of the addiction. Generally, opiate detox happens in two main phases:

Phase I: Starting within 6-12 hours of the last opiate dosing, withdrawal symptoms begin with:

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  • Joint pain
  • Agitation
  • Anxiety symptoms
  • Muscle aches
  • Fatigue
  • Sweating
  • Runny nose
  • Excessive yawning
  • Insomnia
  • Restlessness

Phase II: Around day 2 the withdrawal symptoms become more intensified, including:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Intestinal cramping
  • Goosebumps
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Muscle spasms
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Anger, hostility

The detox team will assist clients in successfully navigating these withdrawal symptoms so they will complete the detox process and get into treatment.

Medication Assisted Treatment

Opiate addiction recovery, including heroin, morphine, opium, and opioids, is assisted by certain “replacement” drugs that can help them slowly step down from opiate dependence. This medication-assisted treatment has been shown to be extremely helpful for individuals with a long history of opiate addiction. The drugs help to stabilize brain function in early recovery, or beyond if needed, allowing them to become productive again.

Medication-assisted treatment may begin during the latter detox phase, when symptoms subside. The drugs include these options:

  • Methadone
  • Suboxone
  • Buprenorphine
  • Naltrexone

Because these drugs, except naltrexone, are opioids themselves, they are strictly regulated to avoid abuse.

Integrated Addiction Treatment for Opiate Recovery

When approaching treatment for an opiate addiction, look for a comprehensive program that provides an integrated approach. This means that several different treatment interventions are provided, including:

  • Individualized treatment plan
  • Psychotherapy, including cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavior therapy and other evidence-based therapies
  • Group therapy
  • 12-step or similar programming and meetings
  • Addiction education
  • Recovery skills education
  • Relapse prevention planning
  • Medication management
  • Adjunctive services, such as holistic activities, biofeedback, neurofeedback, and recreation
  • Nutritional counseling and fitness activities

This constitutes a well-rounded treatment approach that is best provided within a residential treatment setting. Residential programs provide a more intensive schedule of therapeutic interventions as well as 24-hour support and supervision.

Aftercare Helps Seal the Deal

Completion of detox and rehab is only the beginning of the recovery process. Continuing care, or aftercare, is at least as important as rehab in terms of shoring up the recovery and establishing a truly sober lifestyle. Recovery happens on a continuum, one that will endure as a lifelong process.

Some excellent aftercare options for reinforcing recovery include:

  • Sober living
  • Participating in 12-step or similar meetings
  • Continuing with outpatient weekly therapy sessions
  • Incorporating stress-reducing activities, such as yoga classes or meditation
  • Regular exercise

Solutions 4 Recovery Provides Recovery Services for Opiate Addiction

Solutions 4 Recovery is an Orange County-based addiction and dual diagnosis treatment center located in a beautiful coastal community. Our full-service treatment program provides medical detox services, opiate rehabilitation, and aftercare services for a comprehensive recovery continuum. Featuring a serene, healing environment and evidence-based treatment approaches, Solutions 4 Recovery offers clients the most current and effective addiction treatment protocols. For more information about our program, please contact Solutions 4 Recovery today at (888) 417-1874.