The opioid crisis has affected people all over the United States. Opioids were involved in 46,802 overdose deaths in 2018. In Orange County, 45 percent of the overdose death rate involves opioids, totaling more than 2,400. Opioid addiction and dependence are difficult to get over on your own. Uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms and cravings often cause a relapse. Opioid detox can help Californians that are struggling with active addiction.
Learn more about opioid detoxification in Orange County and how it works to facilitate lasting recovery.
Addiction is a complicated disease with many possible causes. It affects many people in the United States, growing into the opioid crisis in the last several years. By 2019, 5.7 million people were reported to have used heroin at some point in their lives in the United States. In 2015, 2.0 million people met the criteria for having an opioid use disorder.
Like mental health disorders, substance use problems are thought to be related to substance, genetic, environmental, and developmental factors. It’s unlikely that you will be able to pinpoint an addiction to one singular cause. Rather, it’s probably a combination of different factors.
What Causes Substance Use Problems?
Opioids cause addiction by manipulating chemicals in the brain and body. Addiction is a disease that involves an area of the brain called the reward center. The reward center is found across different regions of the brain, but it shares the task of releasing rewarding chemicals and teaching you to repeat healthy activities.
Your reward center is why eating your favorite meal, tucking into a warm bed, and giving a loved one a hug leaves you feeling satisfied or happy. Things like comfortable shelter, food, and positive social interactions are all important activities that sustain and enrich your life. Your reward center motivates you to continue to seek out those healthy things. It’s also why you may crave eating a pint of ice cream after a break-up. Your brain responds to negative emotions by encouraging you to seek out a chemically rewarding activity.
The reward center interacts with drugs like dopamine, endorphins, oxytocin, and serotonin. However, opioids also manipulate some feel-good chemicals. Opioid drugs are very similar to the endorphins in your brain. They’re able to bind to the receptors in the brain that are reserved for opioids. Opioid drugs also influence dopamine, a chemical that’s tied to reward and motivation. Your brain learns that opioid use is a source of potent chemical reward. Then you start to crave opioids like they’re important life-sustaining things. When you stop using, your brain will create powerful compulsions to use that are difficult to control.
What Causes Withdrawal Symptoms?
During withdrawal, many of your symptoms come from chemical dependence. Dependence refers to chemical changes in the brain and body that occur as you adapt to a drug. If you take opioids consistently for a long period or if you take it in high doses, your brain chemistry will adapt to counteract the drug to achieve a chemical balance. Your balanced brain chemistry will rely on opioids. When you stop taking them, you’ll feel the effects on unbalanced brain chemistry. When it comes to opioids that have receptors all over the body, that could mean full-body symptoms. Because it causes full-body effects, opioid withdrawal is often compared to the flu.
Opioid withdrawal is often compared to a particularly bad case of the flu. It involves general feelings of discomfort all over the body as well as specific symptoms. Common symptoms may include:
- Runny nose
- Watery eyes
- Aches and pains
- Joint pain
- Stomach cramps
Opioid withdrawal can also come with some psychological symptoms like intense drug cravings, depression, anxiety, agitation, anger, and negative thoughts. Physical symptoms are usually the first ones to dissipate, while psychological symptoms linger. In some cases, depression or anxiety needs to be addressed in treatment for them to be effectively addressed.
Opioid withdrawal symptoms aren’t usually life-threatening, though they can cause some extreme discomfort. Since opioid withdrawal causes flu-like symptoms, diarrhea, and vomiting can lead to dehydration, which can be dangerous. However, a more likely danger of opioid withdrawal is relapse. Between uncomfortable symptoms and intense opioid cravings, many people that try to detox on their own return to active drug use.
In fact, addiction is difficult to get over on your own in general. Around 40 to 60 percent of people with substance use disorders relapse at some point after stopping opioid use. That’s similar to relapse rates for other chronic health conditions like hypertension and asthma. Part of that is the combination of chemical dependence and addiction. Dependence causes drugs like opioids to cause uncomfortable physical symptoms, while addiction causes powerful compulsions to use.
Detox is the highest level of care and involves 24-hour medical care. It may also be necessary if you have health conditions that may be complicated by withdrawal symptoms. The primary goal of detox is to keep you safe and as comfortable as possible while your body re-adapts to life without opioids in your system.
Addiction treatment is a personalized process. Whether or not you need detox or another level of care depends on your specific needs. When you enter a treatment program, medical and clinical professionals will work to determine the best level of care for you.
Opioid detox involves medically managed treatment while your body adjusts to life without opioids. Through this process, you may be given medications to help mitigate symptoms or to help you taper off of an opioid. Tapering may mean spending more time in the detox phase, but it may alleviate some symptoms. Detox isn’t just waiting to clear your body of opioids; it’s also aiding you through the process of your brain chemistry returning to normal. Medical staff will be available at all times to help prevent or treat complications. You may also begin clinical treatment with a therapist once your immediate medical needs have been taken care of.
The length of time you need in detox, and in treatment in general, will depend on your specific needs and your progress in treatment. Generally, opioid detox can last between five and ten days. Opioids last in your body for a few days, though the amount of time can range widely, depending on the opioid, your size and weight, and the size of your most recent dose. However, withdrawal symptoms last longer than the time it takes to clear your body of opioids. When the drug wears off, it will take a few more days for your body to adjust your chemical balance to alleviate withdrawal symptoms.
Some symptoms will continue after detox, but they are usually psychological symptoms like anxiety and depression. It’s usually safe to move on to the next level of care by your second or third week.
Completing detox doesn’t mean that you’re finished with treatment. Substance use disorders often require long-term treatment to effectively address. Addiction can come with a variety of underlying issues like mental health issues. Addiction treatment addresses these issues and allows you to find ways to prevent relapse and safeguard your recovery. Effective treatment can take nine months of inpatient or outpatient treatment.