Opioid addiction is a widespread problem in America and if you find yourself hooked on your prescription painkillers or heroin, you’re not alone. While there are many benefits to getting sober, opioid withdrawal can be a painful and difficult process, especially without professional support.
An inpatient medical detox program for opioid addiction is often the safest and most effective option for getting sober, but if you don’t have health insurance or are financially unable to pay for treatment, detoxing at home may seem like the next best option.
In this blog, we’ll provide details about the possible risks of detoxing from opioids at home as well as tips on how to do so safely, if you decide to. However, it’s important to note that at-home opioid detox is never recommended and inpatient detox treatment is always safest.
Opioid Detox at Home
The idea of detoxing at home is a comforting one, especially if you’re anticipating experiencing the uncomfortable side effects of opioid withdrawal. However, detoxing from opioids at home can not only be very dangerous, but it may also be life-threatening.
Unfortunately, the complications of opioid withdrawal are often underestimated and people rarely have the medical and clinical support they need to safely and adequately recover.1
The severity of opioid withdrawal symptoms are subjective, but generally, they are flu-like in nature. Common symptoms of opioid withdrawal include:
- Dilated pupils
- Muscle aches
- Nausea and vomiting
- Abdominal cramping
- Teary eyes
- Runny nose2
If you are severely addicted to opioids and you experience withdrawal symptoms when you try to stop using or cut back, inpatient treatment is the safest option for opioid detox.
Risks of At-Home Opioid Detox
Although opioid detox and withdrawal is a very individualized process and each person will experience it differently, there are several very real risks that apply to everyone who attempts at-home opioid detox.
- Unpredictable withdrawal symptoms: As mentioned above, opioid withdrawal is a highly individualized process. Depending on factors like the person’s overall health, the size of the dose each time they used, how long they’ve been using opioids, whether they used other drugs or alcohol with the opioids, and several other factors, they may experience unpredictable physical and psychological side effects of withdrawal.
- High likelihood of relapse: Without the professional support of a medical and clinical treatment team, a person detoxing from opioids at home is likely to relapse. Opioid withdrawal can be very uncomfortable, and without medical treatment for those symptoms, a person could easily revert back to abusing opioids simply to get relief.
- Death: Death caused by opioid withdrawal is very possible. Persistent vomiting and diarrhea left untreated can cause severe dehydration, an elevated blood sodium level, and heart failure as a result.1 Fortunately, opioid withdrawal deaths are highly preventable with medical support and treatment during detox.
- Lack of direction after detox: Even if a person successfully detoxes from opioids at home, a lack of support and direction in sobriety can lead them right back into regular drug abuse. On the other hand, a medical detox treatment program can provide personal recommendations for ongoing treatment in rehab and help the client through the enrollment process to ensure a smooth transition.
What is the Success Rate for At-Home Opioid Detox?
It is difficult to determine a success rate for at-home opioid detox because the definition of “successful opioid detox” varies from person to person. For example, if someone gets sober but then relapses, was the detox successful? Or, if a person detoxes from opioids at home but then starts abusing other substances to deal with chronic pain or life circumstances, are they really any better off?
Ultimately, if your goal is to stop abusing opioids, get sober, and stay sober, inpatient medical detox is the most effective, most comfortable, and safest way to do so.
At-Home Opioid Detox: Pros and Cons
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How to Detox from Opioids at Home
Although at-home opioid detox is highly discouraged, if you opt to do it, there are certain things you can do to relieve uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms, according to Medical News Today.3
- Fever, chills, sweating, and muscle aches can be treated with over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen and acetaminophen.
- Using cool compresses and ice packs can reduce a high temperature.
- Research shows St. John’s Wort may help reduce shaking, diarrhea, depression, and insomnia.4 However, this herb is also known to interact negatively with many other medications, so it should be used with caution.
- Imodium, an over-the-counter medication, may be used to treat diarrhea.
- Eating small meals, bland food, and regularly drinking small sips of water can help treat nausea and prevent dehydration.
- Melatonin, another over-the-counter supplement, may help treat insomnia, although it doesn’t always work for all individuals.
Your safety is also a serious concern if you choose to detox from opioids at home. As such, you may want to ask a trustworthy support person to stay with you while you detox. A support person can help distract you from your cravings, administer over-the-counter medications if you are unable, and call 911 if you need emergency care at any point during the process.
Alternatives to At-Home Opioid Detox
If you decide that at-home opioid detox is just not worth the risk, medical detox is an excellent alternative. Enrolling in an inpatient opioid detox program will ensure your safety, comfort, and a successful detoxification process.
During detox, medical and clinical addiction treatment professionals will coordinate to provide detox treatment that is tailored to your individual needs. This means, as your physical and psychological symptoms change, your treatment team will adjust your treatment to make sure you are comfortable and well-cared-for at all times.
Many medical detox centers are also designed to feel like home so you can feel comfortable and safe while you rest. You’ll also receive chef-prepared meals that are delicious and well-balanced to enhance your physical recovery. After you complete your program, your treatment team will provide professional recommendations for ongoing care to give you the best chance at sustained, long-term sobriety. Examples of continuing care programs could include residential rehab, outpatient rehab, IOP, or a sober living program.
At-home opioid detox and withdrawal are physically and psychologically challenging, as well as unsafe. Fortunately, it’s not the only route to sobriety and recovery. An opioid detox program can provide the professional and peer support you need to fully recover.