Anyone who’s ever lived with an addiction understands the pain of withdrawal — and no one understands that pain better than people addicted to opioids such as heroin, OxyContin or Percocet. The fever, aches, vomiting and diarrhea that opioid withdrawal triggers can be so overwhelming, many people will return to using. In addition, withdrawal can be dangerous and even life-threatening in many circumstances.

While withdrawal is part of the process of detoxification (the process by which substances are eliminated from the body) the symptoms of withdrawal can often be managed through medically assisted detox.

The Dangers of Quitting Substances Cold Turkey — Including Opiates

Detox used to be strictly “cold turkey” — a user was simply cut off from substances and left to go through withdrawal on their own. This approach, though, failed to consider that there are both physiological and psychological components to recovery from substance abuse disorders. Abruptly quitting drugs can lead to serious health risks, and quitting opiates without supervision can worsen the symptoms of withdrawal and often leads to relapse.

In addition, kicking heroin or other opioids alone won’t address the psychological issues that are part of an addiction. Beyond the very serious potential for relapse, many people dealing with substance abuse disorders are also struggling with undiagnosed mental health issues. By partnering with trained medical professionals in the recovery process, a person can better understand the underlying psychological factors that led to an addiction — and help them cope more effectively going forward.

It’s all part of an approach known as medically assisted detoxification, and it offers a more comfortable, and often more effective, path through withdrawal and on to recovery.

Medication-Assisted Treatment for Opioid Addiction: What to Expect

In Unison Health’s approach to medication-assisted detoxification, an individual enters the facility and goes through a thorough diagnostic assessment, enabling the staff to understand the exact nature of the addiction. Within the first 24 hours, you are placed on medications specifically tailored to your condition. These medications will help ease the symptoms of withdrawal and make the journey to recovery as comfortable as possible. The use of these medications is closely monitored while you work with the doctor to determine an individualized course of treatment.

Over time, you are gradually weaned off the medications that lessen the symptoms of withdrawal, as the substances will likely have been eliminated from your body. From there, it’s important to have a plan for recovery that extends beyond the detox facility. In addition to medications, Unison Health’s approach includes group and individual therapy to address psychological issues. At Unison Health, a licensed, trained staff is on hand to ensure that you are prepared for life beyond the first stages of recovery. That course of treatment takes place in four phases:

Phase I – Pre-assessment (1-4 weeks): The Unison Health team completes a thorough diagnostic assessment and identifies your unique clinical needs.

Phase II – Intensive Outpatient (6 weeks): In group settings, you focus on understanding the basics of addiction, mental health and recovery.

Phase III – Extended Care (12 weeks): Your support group meets to address the day-to-day issues that can get in the way of recovery — and discover strategies to cope with them.

Phase IV – Ongoing Maintenance (approximately 13 months): We expect that you will have achieved total abstinence and will have established a routine within the recovery community. We also offer one-on-one counseling on an ongoing basis.

Don’t Go Through Opioid Withdrawal Alone!

If you or someone you love is fighting an addiction to heroin, OxyContin, Percocet, fentanyl or other opiates, you know it’s an uphill battle for survival. But you’re not alone. Unison Health’s approach to medication-assisted treatment can help you level the field — and find a clearer path to recovery.