The Challenges of Opioid Detox


Opioid detox is not something you want to try alone. Often, when a prescription for pain killers ends, someone who has become dependent on opioids to function can’t get what their body needs. The withdrawal symptoms can be overbearing. As the body screams for more it summons the brain to go find some more, at any cost.

Generally speaking, most family members and friends don’t understand the extreme intensity of these withdrawal symptoms, as they have nothing to base it on, thus, they don’t know what the person is going through.

The dependent person at this point tries to self-medicate. But, finding a replacement to alleviate the withdrawal symptoms can be difficult, especially now that government regulators have cracked down on opioid prescription misuse. Without a source for the opioids, a dependent individual may take to the streets to find illicit replacements. This is one of the reasons heroin use has been on the rise again in the United States (cite: 1).

Another replacement might be Fentanyl which can be purchased illegally online (cite: 2). Fentanyl is the active ingredient of some of the most powerful prescription pain killers available. The problem is the person doesn’t know exactly what they are getting, or in what concentration. Taking more than the person is used to can cause further dependency, and too much could cause an overdose death.

This scenario above is very common. What starts as a pain killer prescription for a real medical or health problem turns into a living nightmare, often ruining their lives. We all agree this is terrible, totally unacceptable, and should have never happened. Of course, placing blame now doesn’t fix the problem of all those who’ve become dependent and addicted to opioids (cite: 3).

What Is the Solution to the Opioid Detoxification Problem?

Well, in the scenario above we see that merely ending the pain killer prescription of a dependent person often doesn’t end well. By the time an opioid-addicted individual makes it to a legitimate rehab center, the situation is usually more convoluted and complicated as the mix of prescription drugs and illicit drugs, the amounts and concentrations, and the individual’s deteriorated health condition has progressed.

For a successful detoxification program to work at this point, everything must be taken into consideration and each individual will need a customized treatment strategy (cite: 4). One-Size fits all programs won’t work, and will only lead to relapse, which means more pain, further health problems, and increased personal financial stress, often to the point of no return. No chance for the individual to take their life back.

Time Is Critical

The longer one waits to get into treatment, the more damage their body and mind will incur, and the harder it will be to successfully treat the dependency. Long term brain and nerve damage can occur, and opioid drug use takes its toll on internal organs. Throw in illicit drug use and the lifestyle of someone who is down and out or has taken to the streets and there becomes a point where even after successful treatment, they will never be the same again. The sooner dependency treatment starts the better for all concerned. Therefore, time is of the essence. No one should become a ‘throw-away’ person (cite: 5).


1.) “Self-Medication Hypothesis of Substance Use: Testing Khantzian’s Updated Theory,” by Danny H. Hall and John E. Queener, published in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, pages 151-158, September 8, 2011.

2.) “Detection of illicit online sales of fentanyls via Twitter,” Tim K. Mackey and Janani Kalyanam, Version 1. F1000Res. 2017; 6: 1937. Published online 2017 Nov 2. doi: 10.12688/f1000research.12914.1

3.) “The Doctor’s Dilemma: Opiate Analgesics and Chronic Pain,” by Howard L. Fields, published in Neuron.

4.) “Precision in Addiction Care: Does It Make a Difference?” by Jaap van der Stel, PhD, published in the Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine.

5.) “The Neurobiology of Opioid Dependence: Implications for Treatment,” by Thomas R. Kosten, M.D. and Tony P. George, M.D, published in National Institute on Drug Abuse journal on Science and Practice Perspectives. 2002;1(1):13-20. doi:10.1151/spp021113


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