opioid detox

Opioid Detox: What Can I Expect?

Dr. Norris Von Curl, II, MD

Dr. Norris Von Curl, II, MD

The opioid crisis in America is crossing all barriers. It’s entering the homes of families, stepping into the public square, and moving into our schools and workplaces. It’s something affecting more and more people on a daily basis, and people often don’t know where to turn for help. First Steps Recovery is quickly becoming an important part of the solution to the opioid crisis for California’s Central Valley. The way we are making a difference is by helping people break the cycle of addiction. And it starts with an opioid detox.

What’s an Opioid Detox?

When a person has become addicted to opioids (such as painkillers or heroin) their body builds up a tolerance to as well as a dependence on the substance. The nerve receptors in their brain get rewired and they become dependent on the substance to function normally.

When a person finally decides to free themselves from opioid addiction, the first step, of course, is to stop taking the substance. But once this happens, there are both physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms involved. These symptoms are uncomfortable, and without proper supervision can actually be life-threatening.

Opioid detox is the process of getting the drugs out of a person’s system and helping their body get used to functioning without the substance so they can begin to engage life again. It is the first step in the addiction recovery process—and it’s a crucial one.

What Are Opioids?

The opioid family has two sides: opiates and opioids.

Opiates are produced from the poppy plant. (Examples are heroin, morphine, codeine)

Opioids act like opiates but are made in a lab. They are usually painkillers, and they mimic the chemistry of the natural poppy-based drugs. (Examples are methadone, fentanyl.)

Both are strongly addictive and often these two sides get lumped together into a category of substances and called “opioids.” And an opioid detox will cover both types dependence.

How Should I Prepare for an Opioid Detox?

Of course, drug addiction and substance use disorder (SUD) is far greater and deeper than a specific type of drug. There are many psychological, social, and even circumstantial influences on a person’s sensitivity to SUD. But none of that matters at first. To find recovery from addiction to opiates, a person has to detox. This is the crucial first step on the wildly important journey of recovery.


The first question most people ask when preparing for an opioid detox is, “Will it hurt?”

The short answer is, “It can be quite uncomfortable.” The withdrawal symptoms without any type of medical supervision can be intense. However, a high-quality, medically assisted detox such as the First Steps program can alleviate much of the discomfort with other medications.

How Long Will It Take?

The timeline for any detox varies on a couple of factors: how long and how often has the person been using, and what else is in their system? But generally, a person can expect the withdrawal symptoms to last for about 7 days.

First 12 hours – 48 hours

The opioid withdrawal symptoms will typically start after about 12 hours of the last dose. Common ones include muscle aches and pain, insomnia, nausea, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, and high anxiety. This first stage is similar to battling the flu; however, with increased anxiety, panic attacks are common as well as dealing with other psychological effects. These could range anywhere from cravings, to confusion and agitation. Irritability, depression, and mood swings are common at this point, and some even experience suicidal thoughts.

Day 3 – Day 7

After the first 48 hours, the most severe symptoms will begin to alleviate; however, there is still plenty of work for the body to do. As well, the psychological addiction is still very well intact. It’s during this time that you will begin to consider your long-term addiction recovery options as well as understand how to begin to handle your cravings as they arise.

Post Acute

Once you have gone through the detox process, the next stage of recovery is vitally important. The cycle of opiate addiction goes beyond physical dependence. As well there are post-acute withdrawal symptoms that arise about a month after an initial detox.

Ultimately, there is no single approach that covers every person. Instead, an individualized method of treatment is vital for lasting recovery. At First Steps Recovery in Clovis, California, during and after opioid detox we work with each person in order to create the plan that will fit their specific needs.

Looking for a Detox Near You?

If you or a loved one are in need of a medically assisted, highly supervised opioid detox, you will be given a safe and comfortable experience at First Steps Recovery. Beyond our detox program, we will transition you into the best fit for your next step of recovery. We offer a full continuum of addiction treatment care, plus we are well connected to other highly respected recovery options. Our patients’ needs are always our first priority. Please call us today to talk to one of our addiction specialists and begin your journey to recovery: 844-489-0836.




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