Can Opiate Detox Be Done at Home?

By Anne Watkins

As opiate painkiller use continues to grow in the United States, more and more people are becoming addicted -- and the faces of opiate addiction are changing.

Opiate abusers can no longer be thought of merely as heroin-abusing junkies who live in squalid conditions and barely live functioning lives. In fact, these days, that picture is woefully wrong.

The image of opiate addicts these days may be the woman living next store or the successful businessman. All it takes to become addicted is a source for opiate medication -- whether it be a doctor's prescription or a friend or relative with access to the drug -- and a predisposition to addiction.

As a result of these changing demographics, many people who become addicted to opiates are afraid to seek treatment. They don't want to face the social stigma associated with rehab, they don't want to have to take time out of their lives and they may even worry that treatment professionals aren't going to take them seriously. Plus, there's simple economics: rehab facilities can be costly.

Of course, these worries are mostly unfounded. The social stigmatization aspect of going to rehab can be managed quite easily. And you can rest assured that doctors aren't going to turn you away if you have an addiction problem. They're more aware than anyone of the changing opiate addiction demographics, and they'll treat you with compassion and care no matter who you are.

Still, depending upon the seriousness of your addiction and the amount of support you have at home, it may be possible to do most of your opiate addiction rehab at home.

What Is Opiate Detox?

When you become addicted to an opiate medication, your body gradually adjusts its habitual behaviors to accommodate the regular drug dosage. It begins to treat your drug-taking as essentially another bodily process, and it expects this process to occur every day. After sustained, serious opiate addiction, stopping suddenly throws your body into an acute state of imbalance.

The physical and mental effects of this imbalance -- also known as withdrawal -- can be severe. It can cause extreme agitation and mood disturbances, pain all over the body, insomnia, diarrhea, and vomiting, among other things. These effects can last up to a week.

With all this discomfort, many recovering addicts don't make it past the first week before relapsing, which is one reason why it's so important to get professional care for your opiate addiction.

When patients enter treatment facilities for addiction, what usually happens first is a careful physical and mental examination by doctors. This allows doctors to judge whether there are any special considerations for a patient's detox. If the patient has any health problems, poor nutrition or a history of mental illness, it's important for doctors to know this so they can adjust the detox program accordingly.

Also at the start of the detox period, patients consult with their doctor about long-term treatment options. This usually consists of opiate replacement therapy with methadone or Suboxone. The patient typically starts taking these drugs during the detox period.

Who Can Detox at Home?

In most cases, doctors recommend that serious addicts should detox at an addiction treatment facility under the supervision of medical professionals. This prevents any health complications, provides a safe place for detox and allows doctors to adjust medication according to each person's needs.

This type of close care is most important for anyone who takes several times the recommended dosage of opiates per day, and it's also best for anyone who has been addicted to opiates for more than a few months. In these cases, the addiction is usually so serious that home detox is risky and most likely to be ineffective.

If you want to detox at home, there are three major things to consider:

  1. Is your opiate addiction moderate or still in the early stages? If so, you might be able to get through your detox at home.
  2. Can you take a couple of days off work? People who stay at rehab facilities for detox usually have to take at least one to two weeks off of work. You can avoid this if you detox at home, but be warned: Because of the harsh detox effects, you're probably going to want to take at least two to three days off work anyway.
  3. Do you have a strong home support system? It's best if you have understanding family and friends who can be warm and loving as you go through your detox. This is particularly important because depression is a common side effect.

How Does Home Detox Work?

However you decide to detox, you're going to need some kind of doctor supervision. It may not be the 24-hour supervision of an addiction treatment facility, but you still need a doctor to advise you and to monitor your progress. It's also important to have a doctor clear you for home detox.

In all likelihood, your doctor is going to evaluate you for any potential health complications, and you're going to discuss whether you would like to use opiate replacement therapy. If so, you can usually start right away, and drugs like Suboxone can make your detox stage much easier.

Even when you detox at home, it's a good idea to seek therapy with an addiction treatment professional. They will help you get to the bottom of why you became addicted, which will give you a positive state of mind moving forward and techniques to prevent relapse.

Meanwhile, it's also a good idea to join an opiate addiction support group, which will give you the chance to interact with others who have had the same problems as you.

During detox, it's important to relax while keeping your mind occupied. It's great to have around you television, movies and anything that might make you feel more comfortable. And even though your appetite may be at an all-time low, you'll get through the process more quickly if you stay hydrated and keep your body full of nutrients.