Opioid addiction is a serious problem across the United States, affecting millions of Americans every year. When you struggle with an opioid addiction, you are at an increased risk of experiencing a life-threatening overdose. Because of this, it is important that you seek professional treatment.

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), opioids were responsible for 80,411 overdose deaths in 2021.

The first step in recovering from an opioid addiction is attending medical detox. While the idea of going through withdrawals can be scary, medical detox programs will provide you with treatments and medications to manage your symptoms. This keeps you safe, comfortable, and focused throughout your treatment program.

Being aware of what opioid detox is like can motivate you to seek the help you need.

What are the Symptoms of Opioid Withdrawal?

Opioids include prescription medications like hydrocodone, oxycodone and morphine, as well as illegal drugs like heroin and illicitly manufactured fentanyl. All of these substances work the same way in your brain, which means they will produce the same withdrawal symptoms. Opioid withdrawal occurs when you suddenly stop consuming an opioid after a period of dependency.

The symptoms of opioid withdrawal include:

  • Agitation and anxiety
  • Muscle aches
  • Increased tearing
  • Insomnia
  • Runny nose
  • Excessive sweating
  • Yawning
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Diarrhea
  • Dilated pupils
  • Goosebumps
  • Nausea and vomiting

While the symptoms of opioid withdrawal are usually not life-threatening, these symptoms can become unbearable without medical assistance. Because of this, people who attempt to detox at home are at a high risk of relapsing and possibly overdosing due to their lack of tolerance. This is why you should always attend a medical detox program rather than trying to overcome opioid withdrawal on your own.

How Does Opioid Detox Work?

Opioid detox centers provide you with a safe and comfortable setting to overcome withdrawals in. During detox you will have access to a variety of services, including an assessment to create an individualized treatment plan, medical stabilization with FDA-approved medications, and treatment planning for further rehab programs.

During opioid detox, you can expect the following:

Initial Assessment

When you arrive at an opioid detox facility you will be provided with an initial assessment. These assessments gather information about your substance abuse, family, mental health, and physical healthy histories. This information will then be used to create an individualized treatment plan that is tailored to your specific needs.

Medical Stabilization

After your assessment, the medical team will begin working on ensuring you are medically stable. This involves the monitoring of your vitals, providing you with fluids, and giving you medications to manage your withdrawal symptoms.

Treatment Planning

Once you are medically stable and have overcome your withdrawal symptoms, you will begin working with the staff members to create a treatment plan. Because detox is only the first step in recovery from opioid addiction, your treatment plan could include inpatient rehab, outpatient programs, and sober living housing facilities.

What Medications Are Used to Treat Opioid Withdrawal?

Because opioid withdrawal can be especially difficult to cope with, you will be provided with medications to manage your symptoms. However, even while knowing you will be offered medications, making the decision to enter detox can be scary. Being aware of how these medications work to improve your symptoms can motivate you to seek the help you need.

The medications used during opioid detox include:


Methadone is one of the primary medications used to manage the symptoms of opioid withdrawal. This FDA-approved medication will target the opioid receptors in your brain to prevent you from experiencing withdrawal symptoms and cravings. Additionally, methadone blocks other opioids from getting you high, preventing you from being able to relapse.


Buprenorphine is another medication approved by the FDA to treat opioid withdrawal. This substance partially activates your opioid receptors to prevent you from experiencing withdrawal symptoms or cravings.


Lucemyra is a non-opioid alternative that can be used to limit the symptoms of opioid withdrawal. This substance manages withdrawal symptoms by reducing the amount of norepinephrine in your brain, a stress hormone that is produced in excess during opioid withdrawal.

Finding Help for Opioid Abuse and Addiction

If you or a loved one are in need of opioid addiction treatment, speak with an addiction treatment center near you. After you complete a medical detox program, it’s important that you enter addiction treatment to overcome the psychological and behavioral aspects of opioid use disorder.