Medically Assisted Opioid Detox

What Medications Are Used to Detox From Opiates

Medically Assisted Opioid Detox

Opiate withdrawal is a very difficult and potentially devastating process. It’s only natural to try and seek out methods that lessen the severity of symptoms.

While some may try to withdraw from opioid addiction alone, it’s much safer and more comfortable to do so under medical supervision. Additionally, a medication that lessens symptoms typically accompanies medically assisted opioid detox. Let’s discuss some of these medications and their applications in detox treatment.

Medically Assisted Opioid Detox

As stated above, opioid withdrawal is a very taxing process that ideally most would want to avoid if at all possible. Medically assisted opioid detox is recommended depending on the severity of the opioid addiction. If the addiction is long-term—lasting years or decades—the withdrawal is likely to be more severe and therefore requires a more hands-on approach to treatment. Withdrawal begins roughly 24 hours after the last dose and some common symptoms include:

  • Muscle spasms
  • Insomnia
  • Sweating
  • Anxiety
  • Agitation/Mood changes
  • Constricted pupils
  • Irregular blood pressure
  • Vomiting
  • Tremors


Physicians prescribe Clonidine to provide relief for physical opioid withdrawal symptoms like sweating, insomnia, vomiting, abdominal cramps, and tremors. However, it’s the most effective in treating symptoms of anxiety and stress. Clonidine is administered as an oral tablet or a patch and has very little potential for abuse or addiction. This makes it an excellent candidate for a long-term opioid substitution medication even after detox. Some side effects of clonidine include drowsiness, dizziness, and low blood pressure.


Physicians prescribe methadone to provide relief from opioid withdrawal symptoms and reduce cravings. Some individuals may need to reconsider methadone as a detox treatment option if they have acute alcohol dependence, respiratory deficiency, or a head injury. Respiratory issues are the main concern of prolonged methadone use and should be monitored closely by a medical professional. 

Methadone became a popular method of treating symptoms of long-acting opioids like morphine and chronic opioid addiction. It was a mainstay of the average detox program with entire facilities dedicated to methadone, commonly called methadone clinics. However, methadone is highly addictive and requires substantial preventative measures. As a result, methadone has largely been replaced by Buprenorphine as an opioid withdrawal medication.


Physicians most commonly prescribe Buprenorphine (Suboxone/Subutex). It is the most efficient in treating both moderate to severe opioid withdrawal symptoms and cravings. Additionally, Buprenorphine is highly effective in treating alcoholism. 

Buprenorphine should only be administered once an individual has experienced the initial effects of withdrawal to prevent complications. Individuals with pre-existing conditions such as diabetes, respiratory issues, or urethral obstruction should proceed with caution when using Buprenorphine. Some common side effects of buprenorphine include insomnia, body aches, dry mouth, dizziness, nausea, and vomiting.

Codeine Phosphate

Codeine phosphate also alleviates both withdrawal symptoms and cravings brought on by opioid dependence. However, its chance of effectiveness is less reliable as up to 10 percent of people experience no reduction in symptoms or cravings after taking it. It is considered a much less reliable form of opioid withdrawal management and therefore less commonly used in treatment.

Which Opioid Detox Medication is the Best?

There is no best or better option for opioid treatment and detox because it’s all relative. What might be the best medication for one person is the absolute worst medication for another person. The best thing to do is discuss options and preexisting conditions and concerns with a medical professional. After discussing options, medical staff will decide on an appropriate medication with a dosage tailored to the specific needs of the individual and monitor them closely through the process.

Detox With Briarwood

Briarwood Detox Center offers detox treatment for alcohol, opioid, methamphetamine, prescription drugs, and much more. Our experienced clinical staff provides round-the-clock monitoring throughout the detox process and our therapy team provides support to help manage the emotional response to treatment. Additionally, we have detox facilities located in Austin, Houston, and Colorado Springs with state-of-the-art amenities.

Briarwood is dedicated to facilitating a healthy and safe environment that empowers people to make significant and lasting changes in their lives. We look forward to supporting you or your loved one on the journey to recovery. Call (512) 277 – 3103 today for more information on our programs and admission process.

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