What is Opioid Withdrawal Treatment Protocol

what is opioid withdrawal treatment protocol


If you have acquired an opioid dependency or addiction, you may be seeking guidance for detox and treatment solutions. The path to recovery starts with completing a medical detox. So, what is opioid withdrawal treatment protocol and what are the next steps? For answers, read on.

What are Opioids?

Opioids are narcotic drugs that provide pain relief. The natural opioids that are derived from the opium poppy plant, include opium, morphine, heroin, and codeine.

The synthetic opioids that are created in the lab mimic the effects of the poppy plant. Of all the prescribed opioids, hydrocodone (Vicodin) is the most commonly abused. Synthetic analgesics include:

  • Oxycodone
  • Meperidine
  • Fentanyl
  • Hydrocodone
  • Opana
  • Hydromorphone
  • Oxycodone with acetaminophen

Whether the drugs are used for pain relief or recreation, it is dangerous to take opioids for an extended period. Continued use of opioids increases tolerance to the drug’s effects. This means that it takes more of the drug to achieve the desired effects, which in turn increases the risk of addiction. Once the brain imprints a positive reward connection with the opioid, drug-seeking becomes obsessive.

With increased dosing, the brain is flooded with dopamine, causing it to eventually stop producing natural dopamine. This means the person can no longer feel positive emotions without the drug producing the dopamine effect.

What are Signs of Opioid Abuse or Addiction?

Clear signs emerge when someone is misusing opioids or has become addicted. These include:

  • Mood swings.
  • Stealing money or items they can sell for drugs
  • Changes in eating habits
  • Changes in sleeping habits
  • Finishing a prescription for pain medication early.
  • Using the opioids in ways not intended, like crushing the pills to snort the drug.
  • Doctors shopping for more prescription opioids
  • Chronic constipation
  • Isolating from friends and family.
  • Neglects responsibilities
  • Decline in work performance
  • Showing signs of drug use, like pinpoint pupils, slurring speech, nodding out, or needle marks.
  • Showing withdrawal symptoms and side effects

Dangers of Opioid Addiction

Misuse of opioids may result in various long-term adverse effects. These include:

  • Organ damage – Adverse health effects, such as liver damage, kidney damage, cognitive difficulties, and serotonin syndrome.
  • Legal problems – Legal trouble from driving while under the influence or theft.
  • Financial problems – Job loss, the cost of the drugs, and not paying the bills lead to money problems.
  • Relationship problems – Continued drug use adversely impacts a relationship, friendship, or marriage.
  • Overdose. According to the CDC, over 75% of drug overdose deaths involved an opioid. Fentanyl is the leading killer among opioid deaths.

Opioid Withdrawal Treatment Protocol

The opioid withdrawal treatment protocol is referred to as a medical detox. A team of detox experts under the supervision of a physician will oversee the detox and withdrawal process.

During the process, certain medications are accessed to assist the individual by reducing cravings and withdrawal symptoms. These drugs work by attaching to the brain’s opioid receptors and tricking the brain into thinking it has received the opioid of abuse.

The replacement drug may be prescribed for the first several months of recovery and is strictly regulated and monitored. This helps the individual transition into recovery with a reduced risk of relapse.

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Opioid Detox Timeline

The opioid detox and withdrawal process follows a fairly predictable path involving three distinct stages:

Stage One

During the first 24-48 hours withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Aching muscles
  • Bone pain
  • Cravings
  • Chills
  • Lethargy
  • Runny eyes and nose
  • Sleeplessness
  • Excessive sweating
  • Excessive yawning

Stage Two

Days 3-5 withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Abdominal cramps.
  • Diarrhea
  • Dilated pupils
  • Goosebumps.
  • Kicking motions
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

Stage Three

Most withdrawal signs are subsiding in this final stage.

Treatment Solutions for Opioid Addiction

The main goal of the detox team is to safely guide you through withdrawal and into treatment. Once in treatment, you will engage in the following treatment plan activities:

  • Psychotherapy: Therapy involves accessing several evidence-based therapies to effectively guide you toward embracing new healthy thought patterns. The therapist will also introduce you to new coping skills that help to safeguard recovery. Therapy can help with a co-occurring mental health disorder or any underlying emotional issues that may be intensifying the substance use disorder.
  • Group therapy: Group therapy involves gathering small groups of individuals in recovery. They share and discuss their personal experiences with one another. This shared experience can provide peer support and foster new friendships.
  • Twelve-step program: The 12-step program is often included in addiction treatment as it provides a road map toward achieving a sustained recovery. After completing treatment, you are encouraged to locate a group in your area to continue in the 12-step program.
  • Education: Information is a powerful tool in recovery, as it teaches you how opioids affect the brain and cause addiction. This knowledge can act as a deterrent to relapse. You will also be coached to develop your own unique relapse prevention plan.
  • Other therapies: Holistic and experiential activities help promote relaxation and reduce stress, which in turn helps to prevent relapse. These include yoga, meditation, art therapy, journaling, and meditation.
  • Aftercare services: Aftercare planning is an essential aspect of recovery success. These actions can help reinforce early recovery, which is the most vulnerable period. Aftercare actions include outpatient programs, joining a recovery community, and possibly spending a few months in sober living. If a recovery medication is prescribed, ongoing medical checkups are also part of aftercare.

Being informed about the opioid withdrawal treatment protocol is the first step toward your recovery. Follow through by enrolling in a residential detox and treatment program today.

Rehabs Malibu Provides Medical Detox for Opioid Withdrawal

Rehabs Malibu is a luxury residential addiction treatment program in beautiful Malibu, CA. If you or a loved one is ready to get clean and sober, we can take it from there. Please reach out today with any questions you might have, such as what is opioid withdrawal treatment protocol at (424) 425-3541.