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Substance use disorders (SUDs) cost the U.S. millions of dollars per year. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), the harmful use of alcohol, illicit drugs, and prescription medicines cost the U.S. more than $420 billion per year, with more than $120 billion in healthcare costs. However, the consequences of SUDs are not just limited to the financial burden it incurs. SUDs also cripple the nation’s health, education, and social systems and cause disabilities and untimely deaths due to drug-related violence and overdoses. It also opens the door to various personal and professional consequences for individuals with addiction and those around them. 

While people have realized the seriousness and the cost of substance abuse, science has initiated and implemented a range of effective interventions, treatment medications, behavioral therapies, and recovery support services to help people with SUDs make a full recovery. Since overcoming addiction requires more than a detox, rehabilitation is recommended as the more viable solution to maintaining long-term recovery. Addiction rehab helps people overcome substance abuse through medically supervised detox, comprehensive therapies, counseling, and aftercare programs. 

Addiction rehab is available in two main forms, namely, inpatient and outpatient. Inpatient rehab requires patients to reside at the treatment facility to receive treatment, while outpatient rehab allows patients the flexibility to receive treatment on a part-time basis. An intensive outpatient program (IOP) is a more intensive level of outpatient care available for patients who wish for a more comprehensive treatment without compromising on the flexibility of maintaining routine life. 

What Is an Intensive Outpatient Program?

Intensive outpatient programs are treatment programs that help patients overcome substance use disorders while also maintaining their everyday life. IOPs typically schedule treatment sessions for a few hours, several days a week, to help patients address the root causes of addiction, learn relapse prevention techniques, change maladaptive behaviors, and participate in support groups. Such programs also assist patients in addressing psychosocial issues such as housing, employment, and meeting probation requirements. IOPs are more rigorous and time-intensive than most standard outpatient treatments. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), most IOPs require nine to 20 hours of participation per week. 

IOPs generally last anywhere between 6-12 months, with most programs meeting 3-5 days a week. The sessions per week decrease gradually over time when patients meet milestones and show significant progress. 

Group therapy is the key component in most IOPs. However, the programs also include:

  • Individual counseling 
  • Medication management 
  • Case management 
  • Introduction to support groups 
  • Vocational training 
  • Psychiatric screening

How Do IOPs Work?

Most IOPs start with an assessment to ensure the eligibility of a patient. The assessment will also consider the patient’s condition, and their treatment needs to help customize a treatment plan that achieves the desired recovery goals. Once the patient is deemed eligible to undergo IOP treatment, the patient will work with a therapist to decide on a schedule that conveniently fits their everyday routine.

Most programs meet in the morning or evening during weekdays for three hours each day. The sessions mainly revolve around group counseling as it helps participants improve communication, socialize without alcohol or drugs, and experience discipline and structure. However, IOPs also include individual therapy sessions to provide patients with a more private environment to address and discuss issues of sensitive nature. Groups in IOPs are usually small, with around 8-15 members. Private IOPs may have even smaller groups to provide a more individual focus. 

Individuals gather in groups to participate in:

  • Relapse prevention 
  • Skills development 
  • Codependency support  
  • Family therapy 
  • 12-step programs
  • Addiction education 

Drug testing is also a significant component of an IOP. IOPs conduct regular drug testing to ensure that the patients adhere to the program rules and safeguard other group members from patients that use drugs. 

After completing an IOP treatment, the patient and the therapist will decide on the next course of action. If the patient has met all set goals, the therapist will recommend a less intensive level of care to continue with treatment. Some of such less intensive care options are weekly individual meetings with the therapist, alumni meetings, and participation in 12-step programs. 

Is IOP Right for Me - Turning Point

Benefits of IOP 

One of the most apparent benefits of intensive outpatient treatment is its flexibility. As IOPs don’t require patients to reside at the facility, they provide patients with the flexibility to tend to their personal needs and family life without compromising the structure and intensity of addiction treatment. The flexibility also allows patients to strengthen relationships with family and friends and to implement the skills learned through therapy in real-time. IOPs are also less expensive than residential treatment and provide patients with a greater level of privacy to continue addiction treatment. 

Another cited benefit of IOP is greater patient responsibility. Since IOPs do not remove patients from their familiar environment like residential treatment, maintaining recovery falls solely on the patient. This responsibility provides patients with a deeper sense of achievement. IOPs also provide patients the opportunity to build a strong community of peers in recovery. 

Is IOP Right for Me?

IOP treatment may not be ideal for everyone battling an addiction to alcohol or illicit drugs. However, since the program doesn’t detach patients from the outside world during treatment, it may only suit individuals with:

  • A mild to moderate SUD that doesn’t require medically supervised detox or round-the-clock care and supervision.
  • No major mental health disorders or physical health complications.
  • Strong support base at home.
  • Positive, trigger-free home environment. 
  • Strong commitment and discipline to maintain recovery. 

IOPs are also ideal for individuals looking for a step-down program after an inpatient program and for those who have unavoidable work or family obligations to fulfill. While IOPs may seem like a more flexible treatment option, it would be best to opt for a higher level of care such as PHP if you need more support in overcoming your addiction. Patients are highly advised to consult their physician or addiction specialist to help them decide on the best course of treatment.

IOP Vs. PHP 

Partial hospitalization programs (PHPs) are intensive outpatient rehabs that provide patients with the flexibility to receive treatment while maintaining their routine life. However, the main difference between IOP and PHP is their time commitment. PHPs are more time-intensive than IOPs and require patients to dedicate a considerable portion of their week to treatment. PHPs usually take place Monday through Friday every week, for six to seven hours each day. The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) recommends that PHPs provide 20 hours of treatment per week.

The other major distinction between IOP and PHP is their treatment services. Unlike IOP, partial hospitalization programs are highly structured and designed to provide treatment services similar to inpatient rehabs. PHPs may also offer limited medical detox services under the supervision of a licensed medical practitioner, depending on the needs of the patients. PHPs are also more restrictive than IOPs.

How to Find an IOP Near Me?

It may take a significant amount of time, research, and determination to find an intensive outpatient program that best meets your unique needs and requirements. Since there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all IOP for substance abuse, it’s always advisable to consult an addiction specialist to assist you in your search. Assuming you want to join an IOP after you’ve completed a residential treatment program. In that case, you can ask your treatment center for referrals to IOPs in your area. Next, double-check that your health insurance covers the treatment program you’ve chosen. 

If you don’t have health insurance, ask behavioral health and substance abuse treatment centers if they offer IOP or can recommend you to one. If money is a concern, see if the IOP provides financial aid, such as scholarships or a sliding scale based on income. If your income is low and you cannot work, you may be eligible for Medicaid, a state-based program that provides medical help to low-income families.

Participating in an IOP can be a crucial step toward resolving alcohol or illicit drug addiction. However, to get the most out of IOP, you must first decide if it’s right for you. 


An intensive outpatient program (IOP) is a rehabilitation program that requires patients to visit a treatment center several times per week for a few hours per day to receive treatment. It’s an important continuum of care that combines the components of inpatient treatment with the flexibility for patients to return home at the end of the day. Intensive outpatient services typically operate in the morning or evening on weekdays, with most services lasting for about 90 days. IOPs are more rigorous than standard outpatient rehab programs and offer comprehensive treatment and care to people who do not need around-the-clock supervision.

IOPs treat various mental health conditions such as depression, PTSD, and bipolar disorder, as well as substance use disorders, such as alcohol use disorder (AUD) and opioid use disorders (OUDs). 

Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD)

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), AUD is a brain disease characterized by an inability to control alcohol use despite the various occupational, social, and health consequences. It encompasses the conditions widely known as alcohol abuse, alcohol dependence, alcohol addiction, and alcoholism. AUD occurs as a result of the brain changes caused due to chronic alcohol use. It ranges from mild to severe and is believed to be influenced by certain biological, psychological, and social factors, such as genetics, exposure to trauma or stress during childhood, and drinking at an early age. 

Some of the symptoms of an AUD are: 

  • Consuming alcohol more frequently or in more quantities than intended.
  • Finding it difficult to quit or cut back on alcohol use despite many attempts.
  • Having strong cravings for alcohol.
  • Failing to fulfill important commitments at school, home, or work due to alcohol use. 
  • Continuing to consume alcohol despite the recurring physical or psychological problems related to its use.
  • Developing a tolerance to alcohol (the need to consume more quantities of alcohol to achieve the desired effects).
  • Developing withdrawal symptoms when trying to quit or reduce alcohol use. 

Opioid Use Disorder (OUD)

According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), opioid use disorder is a chronic, lifelong disorder capable of causing potential consequences such as disabilities, relapses, and death. It refers to the problematic use of opioids such as heroin, morphine, and prescription painkillers, characterized by a strong, compulsive urge to continue the drug use despite adverse consequences. Even though OUDs are similar to other substance use disorders (SUDs) in many aspects, the highly addictive nature of opioids can lead to physical dependence in as little as 4-8 weeks compared to other SUDs, even if the opioids are taken as prescribed. 

Some of the symptoms of an OUD are: 

  • Taking larger doses of the drug over a longer period than intended.
  • Spending a considerable amount of time in obtaining, using, and recovering from the drug. 
  • Having strong cravings for the drug.
  • Finding it difficult to quit or control opioid use.
  • Giving up on activities that were of interest before due to drug use.
  • Developing a tolerance for opioids.
  • Experiencing withdrawals when trying to quit or reduce drug use. 

IOP Treatment Services Provided for SUDs

IOP treatment for substance abuse can vary from facility to facility. However, it typically includes 10-12 hours of group and individual therapy a week and engagement in 12-step programs. 

Some of the therapies provided by IOPs are: 

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Contingency management 
  • The matrix model 
  • Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT)
  • Motivational interviewing (MI)

Intensive outpatient treatment also includes withdrawal management, relapse prevention training, and educational workshops. In addition, group outings, meditation, exercise classes, career and life training, and other activities can also be provided by certain IOPs as supplemental activities. The treatment sessions are often held on-site at a therapeutic or medical facility. However, certain alternatives, such as online services, are being introduced to help people living in remote areas or towns without access to rehab treatment. This move is especially important during Covid-19 lockdowns as more and more individuals find themselves in need of such services.

Intensive Outpatient Program - Substance Use Disorder - Turning Point

How Does IOP Help SUD Patients?

An addiction to alcohol or opioid refers to more than just the physical need to continue using the substance. It also refers to the underlying psychological components that keep a person engaged in substance abuse, such as stress or childhood trauma. This factor is why most IOPs require patients to engage in various group meetings and individual counseling sessions to address the psychological aspects of addiction. Individual and group therapies facilitate various discussion topics to provide the relevant skills and guidance needed to cope with these core issues. They also create a supportive environment to help patients actively practice implementing the acquired skills and build a strong community of peers in recovery.  

The educational workshops provided by IOPs help patients learn about addiction and the science behind why people get addicted to certain substances. The workshops also teach patients about the mental health issues triggered by substance abuse (co-occurring disorders) to help patients better understand their condition and effectively manage them. Most IOPs also provide the necessary services to identify and treat co-occurring mental health disorders for long-term recovery. 

Other services provided by IOPs, such as withdrawal management, skills development, and relapse prevention, equip patients with the necessary tools to cope with withdrawal and cravings and positively address triggers. Most IOPs also offer family therapy to help patients re-strengthen familial relationships that have been estranged due to substance abuse. Family involvement during treatment remains vital to keep patients motivated and dedicated to establishing long-term sobriety. 

Why Choose an Intensive Outpatient Program? 

Residential treatment programs inarguably provide the highest level of care for substance abuse treatment as it separates patients from their familiar environment to focus solely on rehabilitation. However, committing to such a time-demanding treatment program can be inconvenient for patients with important work, school, or family obligations. Residential treatment may also not be ideal for patients with a mild or moderate SUD that does not require around-the-clock supervision or detoxification. During such instances, IOPs help bridge the gap between inpatient and outpatient programs. IOPs allow patients to receive treatment on a part-time basis without compromising the intensive care of inpatient programs. It also provides patients with a greater sense of responsibility and privacy throughout treatment. 

Since IOPs allow patients to go back to their routine life after treatment, it provides them with the opportunity to practice the skills learned through therapies right away. It also cuts down on the cost associated with accommodation, making it an inexpensive approach to recovery compared to inpatient treatment services. 

The intensive and flexible nature of IOPs makes it a great treatment approach for substance use disorders. However, patients are advised to consult an addiction specialist or a physician before engaging in an IOP treatment to ensure that it’s the right treatment plan for them.


Millions of people in the U.S. and worldwide suffer from various mental health disorders, such as mood disorders and personality disorders. In addition, mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety have increased at alarming levels in recent years, especially since the emergence of Covid-19. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), symptoms of anxiety and depression have increased significantly in the United States from April to June 2020, compared to 2019. 

The prevalence of psychiatric conditions and increased understanding and acceptance of the disease have paved the way for developing efficient treatment programs. One such treatment approach that has shown significant success is the intensive outpatient program (IOP). 

An IOP is a treatment program that helps address mental health disorders and substance use disorders that do not need detoxification and round-the-clock supervision. Instead, it provides treatment on a part-time basis to allow patients the flexibility to continue their regular life with minimal interruptions. 

Intensive outpatient programs for mental health disorders combine the rigorous structure of residential treatment and the flexibility of standard outpatient programs to help patients improve social functioning. 

Mental Health Disorders Treated by IOPs

Intensive outpatient programs help treat a variety of mental health disorders, such as: 

  • Eating disorders – This refers to a set of complex mental health disorders that can severely impair health and social functioning. Eating disorders are formally classified as “feeding and eating disorders” and are characterized by abnormal eating behaviors and related thoughts and emotions. Some of the common types of eating disorders are binge eating disorder (BED), bulimia nervosa (BN), and anorexia nervosa (AN).
  • Depression – This is a medical condition that negatively affects how a person thinks, acts, and feels. Depression causes feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and a loss of interest in activities once enjoyed. It can lead to various physical and emotional problems and greatly interfere with daily functioning. 
  • Bipolar disorder – This mental condition causes unusual changes in mood, energy, concentration, activity levels, and the ability to perform day-to-day activities. Bipolar disorder was previously referred to as manic-depressive illness or manic depression and is classified into three types, namely bipolar I disorder, bipolar II disorder, and cyclothymic disorder. 
  • Anxiety disorders – This refers to a set of mental health diagnoses that cause excessive feelings of nervousness, worry, fear, and apprehension. Anxiety disorders can significantly change how a person behaves and processes thoughts that manifest into certain physical symptoms. Some common types of anxiety disorders are generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and specific phobia. 
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) – This psychiatric disorder occurs in people who have witnessed or experienced a traumatic event. PTSD is characterized by flashbacks, nightmares, severe anxiety, and disturbing thoughts about the event. This psychiatric condition can have a crippling effect on an individual’s life if left untreated.
  • Personality disorders – This refers to a mental illness characterized by long patterns of unhealthy and inflexible thought processes, behaviors, and feelings. These internal emotions and behaviors often deviate from cultural expectations and cause serious troubles in relationships and work. Some common personality disorders are paranoid personality disorder, schizoid personality disorder, and antisocial personality disorder. 
  • Co-occurring disorders – Also known as dual diagnosis or comorbidity disorder, are conditions in which a person simultaneously has a substance use disorder and a mental health disorder. 

IOP Treatments for Mental Health Disorders 

IOP treatment mainly revolves around individual and group counseling to help patients resolve immediate problem areas and develop skills to sustain long-term recovery. Some of the other treatment services provided by IOPs are: 

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) 
  • Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT)
  • Motivational interviewing (MI)
  • Group processing 
  • Skill-building exercises
  • Family therapy
  • Psychotherapy
  • Medication management 

IOP treatments require a great deal of commitment and a willingness to participate in treatment services. Hence it may not be an ideal approach for individuals with a severe mental health disorder requiring constant supervision and support.

What to Expect During Intensive Outpatient Treatment?

Most IOPs require patients to undergo an initial assessment, including a physical and psychological background evaluation, to determine the severity of their mental health conditions. The evaluation will also determine a person’s eligibility for treatment and where they are in the recovery process. Once the assessment is complete and the person is deemed eligible for treatment, clinical professionals will work closely with the patient and their loved ones to plan and develop a viable treatment plan. 

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), IOP requires a minimum of nine to 20 hours of participation each week. And most programs usually meet between nine to 15 hours per week in three-hour sessions. Patients spend the agreed number of hours engaging in various group and individual therapies and educational workshops centered around their mental health disorders. They may also be encouraged to participate in 12-step programs to ensure long-term recovery. The overall goals of IOPs are to help patients:

  • Manage mental health disorders effectively 
  • Develop positive-coping skills and problem-solving skills
  • Improve self-esteem and self-awareness
  • Regulate emotions and control impulses 

How Long Do IOPs Last?

According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), the length of time a person stays in an IOP treatment may vary depending on the individual requirements of each patient. The length of IOP treatment may be determined by factors such as the severity of a patient’s condition, their support system at home, and their treatment progress. Most IOPs last anywhere from one to six months. During this time, the majority of patients complete 30 to 60 treatment sessions. However,  IOPs can also potentially linger up to a year in some cases.

Intensive Outpatient Program – Mental Health Disorder - Turning Point

Who Benefits from Intensive Outpatient Programs? 

Although IOPs offer a flexible treatment option, they may not be the best solution for everyone suffering from a mental illness. Patients who benefit the most from IOPs are those who:

  • Do not require round-the-clock supervision or care but still need access to intensive therapeutic modalities. 
  • Have unavoidable daily commitments that preclude them from enrolling in full-time treatment. 
  • Need a “step down” program to transition from a residential program or a partial hospitalization program (PHP).
  • Have a history of frequent hospitalizations due to mental health issues and suicidal behaviors.
  • Require specialized support for stabilization, symptom reduction, and relapse prevention. 

Before engaging the services of an IOP, patients should seek advice from a physician who specializes in mental health disorders. The doctor will assess each patient’s situation to determine if IOP is the best option for them.

Intensive outpatient programs (IOPs) are treatment programs designed to treat addictions, depression, eating disorders, and other dependencies that don’t require around-the-clock supervision or medical detoxification. An intensive outpatient program is usually the next level of care patients transition to after completing an inpatient care or partial hospitalization program. IOPs are an important aspect of the continuum of care for alcohol use disorders (AUD) because they are designed to help individuals build support networks, relapse prevention, and learn coping skills.

In comparison to standard outpatient programs, IOP provides a higher degree of treatment and care. However, the most effective therapy (whether it be a residential program or outpatient rehab program) is determined by the severity of the alcohol use disorder and whether or not the individual is also dealing with physical or mental health issues. IOP provides patients with the flexibility to receive treatment while also maintaining their personal and professional lives. The duration and intensity of IOP treatment are determined by a patient’s commitment to stay abstinent and the progress made with their recovery process.

According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), IOP services were offered by 6,089 addiction treatment centers in the United States in 2011 (44% out of 13,720 programs), and IOPs treated 141,964 patients or 12% of the 1.2 million patients in care.

How Do Intensive Outpatient Programs Work?

An intensive outpatient program is conducted in an outpatient setting. This program helps people reconstruct their lives, focus on long-term recovery and coping skills while remaining at home and carrying out their responsibilities to their loved ones.

The goals of intensive outpatient programs include:

  • Maintaining abstinence.
  • Achieving behavioral change.
  • Participating in support groups such as a 12-step program.
  • Addressing psychosocial issues such as housing, employment, and meeting probation requirements.
  • Developing a support system.
  • Improving problem-solving skills.

The majority of intensive outpatient programs last 90 days. However, the duration and the level of care can vary from one patient to another depending on the individual’s needs and requirements. 

Services Provided by Intensive Outpatient Programs

An intensive outpatient program’s treatment varies from facility to facility and provider to provider. However, it usually includes 10-12 hours of group and individual therapy each week and motivation to participate in a 12-step program. These sessions are normally held on-site at a medical or psychiatric facility. However, some opportunities for individuals to engage in online programs are being established. This move is notably important during Covid-19 lockdowns and those who reside in isolated areas or towns where proper treatment resources aren’t readily available.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), primary IOP services include:

  • Group counseling and therapy – The key component of an IOP treatment is group therapy. The purpose of group-based therapy is to encourage healthy socialization and help individuals improve their communication skills. This treatment element provides structure and discipline into the often chaotic lives of patients.
  • Individual counseling – Individual counseling is a valuable, supportive addition to group sessions, but it’s not the primary therapy option. Individual counseling focuses on the immediate issues patients face due to their alcoholism and their ongoing efforts to attain and maintain abstinence. A counselor can gain a deeper knowledge of the patient through individual counseling.
  • Community-based support groups – Support groups, such as 12-Step and other mutual-support groups, help individuals transition out of treatment. These programs are vital in providing a sense of community in their long journey to recovery. Support groups serve as an important addition to structured therapy.
  • Medication management – Medication management is an important component of effective substance abuse treatment that should not be overlooked or separated from other therapies. Medication management targets specific aspects of substance use disorder.
  • Routine monitoring – All Intensive Outpatient Treatment (IOT) programs include regular testing to monitor an individual’s alcohol intake during the treatment process. Drug and alcohol monitoring assists physicians in determining the need for treatment modifications and assists families in re-establishing trust.
  • Case management – Individuals who abuse alcohol are more prone to suffer from various interconnected issues in addition to alcohol use disorder. And case management is responsible for coordinating all parts of a patient’s treatment. Case managers also advocate and provide support for the patient’s family and friends.

Other forms of enhanced IOP treatment services include:

  • Life skills training
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy
  • Family therapy
  • Access to medical care and mental health services
  • Access to 24-hour care crisis management hotline
  • Complementary therapies such as art therapy and music therapy

Following the completion of IOP treatment, patients will be recommended a less intensive level of treatment.

Intensive Outpatient Program - Alcohol Use Disorder

The Benefits of Choosing an Intensive Outpatient Program

IOPs are designed to provide the benefits of an inpatient program in an outpatient setting. One of the most frequently mentioned advantages of an intensive outpatient treatment program is that patients can instantly apply what they have learned in the outside world. Other benefits of an IOP include:

  • Provides longer and more intense treatment programs than the standard outpatient programs.
  • The flexibility provided by IOP helps patients maintain their personal and professional life.
  • Cost less than residential or inpatient treatment centers.
  • IOPs provide clinical flexibility to address individual needs.
  • Higher retention rates.
  • Provides a greater level of privacy.
  • Increased opportunities to establish community-based support.
  • Participation in local self-help groups from the beginning of treatment.

Choosing the Right Intensive Outpatient Treatment Program

Alcohol use disorder is a very complicated disease. Each case has its own set of causes, motives, and triggers. It also varies a great deal by intensity, so no two cases are the same. For this reason, it’s important to choose a treatment program that is tailored to an individual’s specific needs.

A well-established and innovative intensive outpatient program will offer a wide range of services to assist and guide patients toward evidence-based and holistic rehabilitation techniques. As every IOP offers different services, here are a few things one should look for when choosing an IOP facility:

  • When it comes to choosing an IOP treatment facility, location is one of the most crucial considerations. The IOP treatment center must be in a convenient location. If the clinic is too far away, you are less likely to attend treatment as frequently as is recommended.
  • The certifications earned by a facility indicate that the staff and team members have acquired the necessary training.
  • A variety of therapy choices should be available at an intensive outpatient clinic. These treatment options must also be tailored to each patient’s specific needs.
  • Another key element to consider while choosing an IOP facility is scheduling. If you require therapy while going to school or working, the treatment center you choose should provide therapies and other services at your convenience.

IOP treatment centers help fill the void between residential treatment and outpatient services. And is an important part of the whole addiction treatment process.

Opioid addiction is a chronic disease that can lead to serious health, social, and financial complications. Opioids are medications that work on the central nervous system to create pleasurable effects and pain relief. Some opioids are legally prescribed to treat serious and chronic pain. While others, such as methamphetamine, are illicit substances that are abused.

Opioid addiction is identified by an intense, compulsive need to use opioids even though they are no longer medically necessary. Opioids possess a high potential for addiction and dependence even when administered and used as prescribed by a health care professional. Individuals with opioid use disorder (OUD) prioritize getting and using the substance over other things in their lives, which can harm their professional and personal relationships. Opioid withdrawal syndrome is a potentially fatal condition caused by opioid dependence.

In the United States, almost 50,000 people died from opioid-related overdoses in 2019. The abuse of opioids is a serious national crisis that negatively impacts public health and social and economic welfare. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the overall economic burden of prescription opioid misuse in the United States is estimated to be at $78.5 billion a year, including healthcare expenses, lost income, addiction recovery treatment, and criminal justice involvement.

What Is Opioid Withdrawal? 

When an individual becomes physically dependent on opioid painkillers, he or she may feel compelled to continue taking the medication to function normally. Abrupt cessation or reduction of the medication can result in various unpleasant symptoms known as opioid withdrawals. Withdrawal symptoms are dependent on various factors, including: 

  • The type of opioid exploited 
  • The individual’s drug tolerance 
  • The duration of their abuse 
  • Polydrug abuse 
  • Patient’s medical history
  • Co-occurring disorders or mental health disorders 

Although withdrawal symptoms aren’t usually life-threatening, they may trigger significant physical and psychological discomfort for the individual experiencing them. 

The Effects of Opioid on the Body 

Opioids bind to opioid receptors found in the brain, gastrointestinal tract, and spinal cord. Opioids exert their effects as they bind to these receptors. The brain also produces its own natural opioids, which are essential for pain relief, reduced respiratory rate, and the prevention of anxiety and depression. 

However, the body does not produce opioids in significant quantities to treat the pain associated with a fractured leg. Nor does it produce opioids in large quantities to trigger an overdose. Opioid medications and illicit drugs are synthetic versions of these naturally occurring opioids. 

These drugs may have a variety of effects on the body, including: 

  • Opioids can slow down breathing by affecting the brainstem, which regulates functions such as breathing and heartbeat. 
  • Opioids may produce feelings of pleasure or relaxation by acting on specific brain areas known as the limbic system, which regulates emotions. 
  • Opioids work by affecting the spinal cord, which sends signals from the brain to the rest of the body and vice versa. 

What Causes Opioid Withdrawal? 

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), prescription opioids have similar effects to heroin. Therefore, when you take opioid medications for an extended period, the body becomes desensitized to the effects and will require more medication to produce the same effect as before. This formation is known as tolerance.

Long-term usage of these medications alters the function of nerve receptors in the brain, and all these receptors become dependent on the medication to function. If you feel physically ill after discontinuing an opioid medication, this may indicate a physical dependence. Withdrawal symptoms are the body’s physical response to the medication’s absence. 

Many people become dependent on these medications within a short period. In some scenarios, people may be unaware of their dependence since opioid withdrawals closely resemble flu-like symptoms. 

Symptoms of Opioid Withdrawal 

Depending on the severity of one’s addiction and dependence, the symptoms can vary. In addition, many factors affect how long a person will experience withdrawal symptoms. As a result, everyone’s experience with opioid withdrawal is unique. Nonetheless, there is a general timeline for symptom development. 

Early signs usually appear within the first 24 hours of discontinuing the medication and include symptoms, such as: 

  • Anxiety 
  • Lacrimation (eyes tearing up) 
  • Runny nose 
  • Muscle aches 
  • Restlessness 
  • Excessive sweating 
  • Yawning very often 
  • Inability to sleep 

Withdrawal symptoms may peak after the first few days. Symptoms may include: 

  • Goosebumps on the skin 
  • Nausea and vomiting 
  • Diarrhea 
  • Abdominal cramping 
  • Dilated pupils and possibly blurry vision 
  • High blood pressure 
  • Rapid heartbeat 

While uncomfortable and painful, symptoms normally subside within 72 hours; some may experience them for a week. 

Babies born to mothers who are addicted to opioids or who have used them while pregnant often develop withdrawal symptoms as well. This may include: 

  • Dehydration 
  • Vomiting 
  • Digestive issues 
  • Poor feeding 
  • Seizures 

It’s crucial to note that different medications stay in the bloodstream for varying periods and may affect the withdrawal process. The duration of your symptoms is determined by the frequency of use and the extent of your addiction, as well as individual considerations such as your general wellbeing. 

For example, heroin is generally eliminated quickly from the bloodstream, and withdrawal signs can appear within 12 hours after the last usage. On the other hand, it may take up to a day and a half for symptoms to appear if you have been taking methadone. 

Opioid Withdrawal - Turning Point

Risks of Opioid Withdrawal 

Although symptoms of withdrawal aren’t life-threatening, withdrawal complications left untreated can turn fatal. For example, dehydration, heart failure, and hypernatremia (an elevated blood sodium level) can occur due to frequent vomiting and diarrhea. If you vomit and then breathe in stomach contents into your lungs, you can experience aspiration, resulting in choking or a lung infection. 

The most serious risk of withdrawal is relapse. Since the detox process decreases the tolerance to the medication, resuming the same dose of opioids you previously took may result in an opioid overdose. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 70% of the 70,630 drug overdose deaths in 2019 involved an opioid. 

Opioid Withdrawal Treatment 

The physical dependence on opioids can be diagnosed by your doctor depending on your symptoms and a physical test. Since it can be difficult to quit opioids safely, patients are highly advised to seek the assistance of a physician or addiction specialist. Treatment for opioid withdrawal involves medical detox followed by counseling, family and individual therapy, education, and support groups. 

During detoxification, your doctor may prescribe medications to help alleviate certain withdrawal symptoms. Medications used during the detox process may include:

  • Lofexidine
  • Methadone
  • Buprenorphine
  • Naltrexone
  • Clonidine

Some conditions, such as fever, headaches, or joint discomfort, may be treated with over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen. 

While medications can significantly help with the management of opioid withdrawal symptoms, certain day-to-day activities can also help you through your recovery process. These may include simple tasks such as:

  • Moderate exercise, such as walking   
  • Healthy diet
  • Activities that reduce stress and anxiety, such as meditation   
  • Plenty of water or other fluids to prevent dehydration

Regardless of the severity of addiction or dependence, opioid use disorder can be effectively managed and overcome with a comprehensive treatment program. While the process may seem daunting, the befits you reap are life-changing.

Millions of adolescents and adults in the United States suffer from substance abuse and mental health problems, contributing significantly to the nation’s disease burden. The drug crisis in the United States is multifaceted. Although examining the face of addiction is important, the next phase is to determine whether individuals with substance use disorder (SUD) are making their way into recovery. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), 20.1 million people aged 12 and above needed care for a substance use disorder in 2016, but only 3.8 million received treatment in specialty centers. Drug abuse also carries a societal stigma, and it’s a disease usually battled in silence. Although the need for treatment is undeniable, many people either struggle to get the help they require or fully comprehend the nature of addiction.

Anyone who has ever received addiction treatment knows that detoxification is the first step in the recovery process. It’s a critical component of recovery as well as the most physically demanding. Detox is based on the concept that someone who is medically impaired will have a hard time dealing with addiction’s underlying mental health issues. As a result, the goal of detox is to treat the physical aspects of addiction. And thus enabling patients to address the psychological aspects thereafter as part of a comprehensive addiction treatment program. So what is drug detox? And what does the process entail?

What Is a Drug Detox?  

Detoxification is the process of removing any traces of alcohol and drugs from the body, ensuring that an individual is physically stable and ready to begin treatment. 

People’s bodies get used to having these addictive substances in their systems due to alcohol or drug addiction and dependence. When these substances are eventually removed during detox, the brain must adjust to the abrupt decrease in these chemicals. And this usually results in a series of unpleasant symptoms defined as “withdrawal symptoms.” 

The detox procedure is designed to reduce the negative impact of withdrawal symptoms while also making one’s experience as comfortable and safe as possible. Detoxification that is medically assisted and supported by a medical team is the most successful. And this is usually done in a specialized detox center or medical facility under the supervision of physicians, nurses, and other medical professionals. Attempting to detox on your own is seldom effective, and people are likely to suffer unnecessary withdrawal symptoms and feel demotivated due to several unsuccessful attempts. 

The Detoxification Process 

Everyone’s detox experience and requirements are different. In most cases, the drug detoxification process consists of the following steps: 

Medical assessment: The first step in a medically supervised detox is to undergo a comprehensive medical evaluation to get an accurate understanding of their individual needs. During this evaluation, the medical staff may gather information about a patient’s medical history and details about their addiction. The information gathered will be used to create a customized detox plan. 

The stabilization process: The purpose of stabilization is to keep the patient safe from harm. Doctors may prescribe addiction treatment medications to reduce withdrawal symptoms and prevent complications. 

Preparing for entry into treatment: The next step of detox is to prepare for a substance abuse treatment program. Doctors educate patients about the treatment plan and what to expect. Inpatient rehabs offer the best chances of success after medical detox.  

Research indicates that supportive and compassionate care is almost as critical as medication to enable successful detox and the best possible results for patients. As a result, each patient undergoing detox will be closely monitored 24 hours a day, seven days a week. 

How Long Is a Drug Detoxification Program? 

The detox process generally lasts between seven to 10 days on average. Nevertheless, the detox timeline varies from person to person and is determined by many variables, including: 

  • The dose of drugs used 
  • Polydrug use 
  • Types of substances used
  • The half-life of the drug 
  • Length of time using drugs 
  • Pre-existing mental or physical health conditions 
  • A person’s overall health 
  • History of relapses 

Patients will be ready to enter an alcohol or drug rehab program after detox, where they can undergo comprehensive psychological therapy. Alcohol and drug detox is often offered as part of a 28-day addiction treatment regimen. 

Drug Detox Timeline 

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), over 70,000 Americans died from a drug-involved overdose in 2019, suggesting the magnitude of substance abuse in the country. And the most commonly abused substances in the U.S. and their detox timelines are as follows:  

  • Alcohol (approximately one week): Within the first eight hours after the last drink, patients will experience alcohol withdrawal symptoms such as depression, nausea, and sweating. By the time you reach the 24-hour point, you may start experiencing hallucinations that can last for days. Seizures and delirium tremens are the most dangerous withdrawal symptoms associated with alcohol, which require medical attention. The whole process lasts around a week, with the more severe withdrawal symptoms peaking around day four.
  • Heroin and Opiates (approximately seven days): Opioid withdrawal symptoms appear six to twelve hours after the last drug dose and peak around day three of detox. Opiate withdrawal typically lasts no more than five or seven days. Medications such as methadone and Buprenorphine are used if necessary during opioid detox and maintenance treatment.
  • Stimulants (approximately seven days): During cocaine and amphetamine detox, patients experience withdrawal symptoms such as mood swings and insomnia in the days and weeks following drug discontinuation. Patients will experience a wave of depression within the first 72 hours of withdrawal, accompanied by the infamous crash, leaving them feeling exhausted. Cravings for these drugs subside during the first week of detox but return during the first month for many people. 
  • Benzodiazepines (few days to several months): Irritability, anxiety, and nausea with dry heaving are all typical side effects of benzo detox.  Benzo detox can involve the use of barbiturates or other long-acting benzos to help users taper off the medication. Benzodiazepine withdrawals typically subside within a few weeks, but some people experience complications for many months. 
  • Marijuana (around two weeks): Marijuana detox is less complicated than detoxing from other drugs. Restlessness, chills, lack of appetite, headache, and other withdrawal symptoms can occur. While most signs appear one to three days after the last use and disappear within two weeks, some people may experience insomnia and exhaustion for up to a month. 
  • Nicotine (several days to weeks): Depending on how long you’ve been smoking and how many cigarettes you smoked every day, nicotine withdrawal symptoms can last anywhere from a few days to several weeks. Nicotine withdrawal symptoms involve physical, mental, and emotional manifestations. The first week is often more challenging (especially on days three to five). When nicotine completely leaves the system, you may experience headaches, cravings, and insomnia. Most relapses occur during the first two weeks of quitting. 

Side Effects of Detoxification 

Detoxing from drugs can be a painful and dangerous process. And this is why medicinal detox is crucial. Patients should detox under medical care in a safe and supportive setting. The level of supervision varies among inpatient and outpatient detox programs. 

A medically monitored detoxification prevents the potentially debilitating complications of drug and alcohol withdrawal syndromes. Though medical detoxification reduces or alleviates certain withdrawal symptoms, some symptoms are unavoidable. The following are some of the more common side effects during the drug detox period:

  • Nausea 
  • Body discomfort 
  • Nervousness or anxiety 
  • Insomnia 
  • Mood swings 
  • Difficulty concentrating 
  • Poor sleep 
  • Muscle aches

Medications can help manage these common withdrawal symptoms and reduce the risk of a relapse.

What Is Rapid and Ultra-Rapid Detox? 

Rapid detox was first introduced in the 1980s. And is formally known as anesthesia-assisted opiate detoxification. This form of detox aims to end the withdrawal process as quickly as possible to reduce the overall amount of time spent detoxing from opioids. 

Since older detoxification procedures were painful, rapid detox was introduced to alleviate discomfort, maximize success rate, and minimize the risk of relapse. There are two methods for accelerating the detox process: 

Rapid detox: A patient is provided with medicine to speed up the initiation and process of detox, followed by several other medicines to relieve withdrawal symptoms that arise during detox. Rapid detox can cause: 

  • High body temperature 
  • Runny nose
  • Infection 
  • Nausea 
  • Paranoia 
  • Choking 
  • Vomiting 
  • Aspiration
  • Heart attack 
  • Death

Ultra-rapid detox: The patient is sedated with general anesthesia. Doctors will administer an opioid antagonist once the anesthesia has taken effect. The opioid blocker causes the body to start detoxing. In theory, most of the unpleasant symptoms should have subsided by the time the patient awakens from sedation. 

Usually, the rapid detoxification period lasts six to eight hours. However, as there has been little research on these methods, no one is certain if the advantages exceed the costs. As a result, these detox strategies remain somewhat questionable. 

Drug Detoxification - Turning Point

Is it Safe to Detox at Home? 

This is a common question among those looking for the quickest, simplest route to recovery. Detoxing at home is possible. However, there are many reasons why it’s not always the best option: 

  • Lack of medical attention can lead to fatal complications.
  • Increases the risk of relapse.
  • Certain withdrawal symptoms can make you a risk to yourself and those around you.

When individuals develop a physical dependence on a drug or alcohol, their body alters their natural production of certain chemicals and starts to rely on the chemical effects of drugs and alcohol instead. Painful withdrawal symptoms are the result of an abrupt chemical imbalance created during abrupt cessation or reduction. These withdrawal symptoms can vary in intensity from person to person.

Due to the unpredictable nature of withdrawal symptoms during detoxification, patients can have mild symptoms at one moment and suddenly shift to severe symptoms. This unpredictability is the reason why patients are advised against detoxing alone. Individuals detoxing at home must be under the constant care and supervision of a loved one to avoid potentially fatal complications.

If you wish to overcome your addiction or dependence on a certain substance, seek advice from a medical professional. Depending on the severity of your condition, your physician can advise you on the best course of action.

Medications Used During Drug Detox 

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), a range of care with a customized treatment program and follow-up options can be crucial to long-term success. Thus, detox and treatment should include both medical and mental health services as needed.  

Drug detox programs incorporate medications to alleviate unpleasant withdrawal symptoms while maintaining your safety through medical care and supervision in a dedicated detox unit. An effective detox program is comprehensive and may include psychotherapies to help you start the recovery process.  

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved certain medications to manage withdrawal symptoms during detox and recovery. 

Lofexidine: Sold under the brand name Lucemyra, it’s an oral tablet designed to manage common opioid withdrawal symptoms. 

Methadone: This medication is used to treat opioid addiction. Methadone is highly restricted and is only dispensed through a licensed methadone clinic

Buprenorphine: Available by prescription from physicians licensed to dispense the medication. Buprenorphine is a partial opioid agonist authorized for opioid addiction treatment.

Naltrexone: Naltrexone attaches to opioid receptors in the brain, blocking the effects of opioid drugs that would otherwise cause the patient to feel high. Since the medication no longer provides rewarding effects, it discourages people from relapsing. 

Acamprosate: This medication addresses post-acute withdrawal symptoms of drugs and alcohol, such as insomnia, anxiety, and restlessness.

Drug Detoxification During Pregnancy  

Detoxing while pregnant is not only possible but also highly recommended. And the less you and your baby are exposed to drugs, the better the result will be for both of you. 

When pregnant, the purpose of detoxing is to get rid of any addictive drugs in your bloodstream. This procedure can take a few days to a week, based on the type of substance you were abusing, how much you were using at a time, and how long you were exploiting it.   

Due to the complications that can arise, drug detox during pregnancy must be carried out under close supervision and monitoring by medical practitioners to maintain the safety of the mother and child.  

The consequences of drug addiction and dependence are far-reaching. But the important thing to remember is that you’re not alone. There are many facilities across the U.S. dedicated to helping you find the treatment you need. Consult an addiction specialist or your physician for support and guidance.

Drug use and misuse remain an issue in every nation, with an estimated 5.4 percent of the global population using drugs in 2018. The United States, in particular, has a long and interesting history with drugs, going so far as to wage a “War on Drugs.” But despite its tough drug policy and harsh regulations, the United States has a high lifetime illicit drug use. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 13 percent of people in the United States aged 12 and older used illegal drugs in 2019. One of the consequences of drug abuse and addiction is the manifestation of withdrawal symptoms.

Drug withdrawal is a series of symptoms that the body goes through when individuals avoid or minimize their daily use of drugs and alcohol. Abrupt cessation of drugs with a high potential for addiction or dramatic reduction of dosage can result in a wide range of withdrawal symptoms that can be physical and psychological. Depending on the type of substance and your biological make-up, the severity and duration of these withdrawal symptoms can vary greatly. Withdrawal can be uncomfortable and, in some situations, harmful. Hence individuals who wish to stop using addictive substances must consult a doctor or addiction specialist before discontinuing or minimizing their drug use.

What Causes Drug Withdrawal? 

The body and brain work together to maintain homeostasis or equilibrium. Drugs and alcohol affect the reward system in the brain, causing chemicals to be released. This induces a chemical imbalance in the body, forcing it to adapt to these changes by altering the natural production of certain neurotransmitters, among other things.

When someone takes a drug regularly for an extended period of time, their body may develop a tolerance and physical dependence on it. Tolerance is characterized by the need for higher doses of the drug to achieve the same effects as before. Physical dependence refers to the body’s need for the substance in order to function and prevent drug withdrawal symptoms.

Abrupt cessation or drastic decrease in substances with a high potential for dependence and addiction can throw the body off balance. This occurrence is more common in people with substance use disorders (SUDs). Symptoms that manifest during this stage can be mental and physical and vary in intensity depending on the type of drug used.  

Drugs that cause withdrawals include:   

  • Cannabis 
  • Alcohol 
  • Antidepressants 
  • Barbiturates 
  • Hallucinogens 
  • Opioids 
  • Stimulants 
  • Inhalants  

Prolong use of these addictive substances can cause physical and psychological dependence that can only be treated through comprehensive addiction treatment programs. Due to the unpredictable nature of drug withdrawal syndrome and its capacity to cause fatal consequences, individuals who abuse drugs are highly advised against quitting on their own.

Drug Withdrawal Timeline 

The length of withdrawal is determined by the drug used and the degree of dependency on the substance. Depending on various factors and individual variations, it can take days, weeks, or even months to resolve and overcome all withdrawal symptoms. 

Here is a general overview of various drugs and their typical duration of withdrawals:  

Alcohol: Alcohol withdrawal symptoms appear several hours after the last drink and peak between 24 and 48 hours. The risk of seizures may remain high from 12 to 48 hours after the last drink. The potential risk of delirium tremens (DTs) remains high for up to three days after the last drink. 

Short-acting opioids: Symptoms from short-acting opioids typically begin eight to 24 hours after the last dose and last for up to four to 10 days on average. 

Long-acting opioids: Symptoms can develop two to four days after the last dose and fade after 10 days. 

Benzodiazepines: Benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms begin within four days after the last dose and peak within the first two weeks. In some cases, signs of withdrawal can last for months or years without treatment. 

Antidepressant medications: In most cases, symptoms are mild for the first three days and may worsen on the fourth or fifth day before subsiding. Symptoms may last for up to three weeks. 

Stimulants: Stimulants include prescription medications including Ritalin and Adderall, as well as diet pills, caffeine, and illegal substances such as cocaine and methamphetamine. Stimulant withdrawal symptoms appear 24 hours after the last dose and can last for two to three weeks.  

Symptoms of Withdrawal 

Not all substances are created equal, and not all people are the same. Different substances have different effects on people. Many variables determine the extent and severity of withdrawal symptoms. These factors include: 

  • The dose of drugs used 
  • Polydrug use 
  • Class of drugs used 
  • Duration of drug use
  • Pre-existing mental or physical health conditions 
  • A person’s overall health 

One of the most crucial factors to consider is the type of drug a person uses. Symptoms of withdrawal greatly depend upon the initial effects of the drug. For example, opioid medications are powerful pain relievers for chronic pain management, but opioid withdrawal symptoms involve hypersensitivity to pain. Benzodiazepines are a highly efficient form of anti-anxiety medications. When people stop taking benzodiazepines, they sometimes experience extreme anxiety and restlessness. These symptoms are referred to as rebound effects.

Another factor to consider is the severity of withdrawals. Some people only experience mild discomfort during the withdrawal period, while others are traumatized by severe withdrawal. The wide range of unpleasant symptoms commonly associated with this condition include:  

  • Congestion  
  • Fatigue  
  • Irritability  
  • Changes in appetite  
  • Changes in mood  
  • Runny nose  
  • Sweating  
  • Shakiness  
  • Sleeping difficulties  
  • Muscle cramps and pain  
  • Nausea  
  • Restlessness  
  • Tremors  
  • Vomiting  
  • Abdominal cramping 

More intense withdrawal symptoms such as seizures, hallucinations, delirium may also occur in some instances. In general, signs of withdrawal can be categorized as: 

  • Physical symptoms 
  • Behavioral symptoms 
  • Gastrointestinal 
  • Sleep Problems 
  • Psychological symptoms 
  • Cognition   

Dangers of Drug Withdrawal 

Sometimes symptoms are more than just minor inconveniences; they can be fatal. When a person’s body becomes dependent on drugs, the abrupt disruption can be more harmful than expected. 

Opiates, heroin, and methamphetamine are powerful drugs that cause some of the more serious life-threatening symptoms. During withdrawal, extreme delusions and hallucinations can cause an individual to harm themselves or others. Some patients can also have withdrawal-induced seizures. And as such, certain withdrawals can be extremely complicated to manage without professional medical help. 

The intensity of symptoms increases when individuals use massive doses of drugs for an extended period of time. When someone who has been using heroin for a few years decides to quit, they are more likely to have severe symptoms. 

Another danger associated with withdrawal is drug overdose, which can result in fatal consequences. Overdoses can occur when a person takes higher doses than usual, combines other drugs to enhance their effects, or takes their usual dose after a duration of abstinence. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 70,630 people died due to a drug overdose in the United States in 2019.  

How to Manage Drug Withdrawal? 

The management of the withdrawal process involves receiving support, care, therapy, and medications to alleviate symptoms and prevent complications. Depending on the clinical scenario, the following laboratory tests are recommended in cases of potential withdrawal:  

  • CBC 
  • Comprehensive metabolic panel 
  • Urinalysis 
  • Serum glucose 
  • Arterial blood gas analysis 
  • Prothrombin time 
  • Toxicology screening 
  • Cardiac biomarker measurements

Some substances enable people to avoid using them immediately and treat their symptoms on their own. For example, one can quit caffeine independently by avoiding their morning coffee and dealing with caffeine withdrawal symptoms until they fully subside. However, abrupt cessation of drugs such as benzodiazepines or alcohol can be harmful, so contact your doctor for medical care before formulating a detox strategy. 

Detoxification or medically-assisted detox allows the body to rid itself of drugs. Detox is used to safely manage withdrawal symptoms after someone ceases taking alcohol or drugs. Each person’s detox experience is unique. The type of drug used and how long it was used affect the duration and intensity of detox. 

Medically assisted detox programs utilize medications to minimize the risks of withdrawals. Some medications used to treat symptoms during detox include: 

  • Buprenex (buprenorphine) 
  • Valium (diazepam) 
  • Ativan (lorazepam) 
  • Methadone 
  • Catapres (clonidine) 
  • Librium (chlordiazepoxide) 

Certain medications can help alleviate specific symptoms. Anti-anxiety medications, antipsychotics, anticonvulsants, among other medications, are used to relieve nausea or sleep disorders. 

Other than the use of medications, patients can also utilize coping strategies and therapeutic options to manage withdrawals, including:

Healthy diet: Make an effort to consume healthy, well-balanced meals. Eating sugary, fried, or fatty foods can aggravate your symptoms. 

Exercise: Try to engage in physical exercise every day. Stretching, cycling, swimming, and other exercises can make you feel better. 

Sleep well: Although withdrawal may often cause sleeping problems, try to get enough rest. Work on developing a daily sleep routine and healthy sleeping habits. 

Stay hydrated: It’s critical to remain hydrated throughout the process, especially if you’re having flu-like symptoms like nausea and vomiting. 

Stress management: Activities like yoga and meditation can also assist you in dealing with your symptoms.  

If you wish to stop using addictive substances, reach out to a physician or addiction specialist for support and guidance. Many addiction treatment facilities all across the U.S specialize in helping individuals achieve sobriety and maintain prolonged recovery.


The opioid epidemic remains a crisis in the U.S and around the world. The number of deaths and hospitalizations associated with opioids, including prescription painkillers, illicit drugs, and analogs, has reached epidemic levels. And as a result, drug overdose is currently the leading cause of accidental deaths in the U.S.

The number of deaths related to accidental opioid overdose largely overshadows every other drug combined. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 68 percent of drug overdose deaths in 2017 involved an opioid. 

Governments and health institutes around the world have initiated various measures to tackle this growing crisis, including campaigns to educate people about the dangers of opioids, encouraging public health departments to provide drug screening and refer people to appropriate treatment, the deployment of medications to combat overdoses, and medication-assisted treatments (MATs) to treat opioid use disorders (OUDs).

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), MAT utilizes medications, counseling, and behavioral therapies to provide a “whole-patient” approach to substance use disorder treatment. The use of medications in treatment is proven to help minimize the risk and severity of withdrawals so that patients can focus more on recovery. 

One of the most widely used medications approved by the U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat opioid use disorders is methadone. 

What Is Methadone?

Methadone, sold under the brand names Dolophine and Methadose, is an opioid analgesic used to relieve chronic pain. It’s also used to treat OUDs as part of a comprehensive opioid addiction treatment program. Methadone functions by acting on the same opioid receptors as heroin and morphine to reduce opioid withdrawal symptoms and block the effects of other opioids. Therefore, methadone helps people in recovery avoid relapses and maintain long-term abstinence.

Methadone is a federally designated schedule II medication that has a high risk for misuse and dependence. Although it doesn’t cause euphoric highs when prescribed as part of an opioid addiction treatment program, it does have certain sedative effects that can turn euphoric when misused. Although such euphoric effects are limited, they are still strong enough to cause certain side effects. And as such, methadone is only dispensed through methadone clinics to limit the risk of misuse and adverse side effects.

What Is a Methadone Clinic?

A methadone clinic is a facility that provides medication-assisted treatment for patients with opioid dependence. They are most accurately called “substance use disorder services” as they also dispense other medications such as Suboxone and naltrexone to help overcome opioid dependence. However, since methadone is the primary medication dispensed, the term has become synonymous with such facilities.

Methadone clinics prescribe patients with medications over a certain time frame to help prevent withdrawal symptoms and reduce opioid cravings. They also provide patients with family, group, and one-on-one counseling sessions to ensure comprehensive treatment and recovery. Counseling helps patients avoid relapses, deal with stress, repair estranged personal relationships and learn healthy coping skills. 

There are two main types of methadone clinics available: private and public. Public clinics are generally less expensive but involve a long waiting list due to limited government funding. In contrast, private clinics are quite expensive but provide patients the opportunity to receive treatment within short notice. All methadone clinics must be certified by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and registered with the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) to provide treatment. And as of 2018, there were around 1,500 methadone clinics across the U.S. 

How Do Methadone Clinics Work?

Most methadone clinics don’t require prior authorization. Patients can simply walk into a methadone clinic and request to be treated. The clinic will then perform a series of in-depth assessments and tests to determine the patient’s eligibility for methadone treatment. Once all requirements are met, the clinic will develop an individualized treatment plan based on the patient’s severity of addiction and specific treatment needs. The treatment plan will include the use of methadone and counseling and therapy sessions to ensure successful long-term recovery.

Methadone is mostly administered on-site. Patients are required to visit the clinic every day to receive their daily dosage of the medication. However, some programs may also allow patients to take home a few doses for self-administration once it’s clear that they are responsible enough to take the medication unsupervised. Methadone is dispensed by a practitioner licensed by the state or federal government. Registered nurses, nurse practitioners, and pharmacists may also dispense the medication or other opioid treatment medications under the supervision of a licensed practitioner. 

Methadone maintenance treatment is often a long-term commitment. Patients should take their daily dose of the medication religiously and engage in counseling and therapy sessions as scheduled to reap the program’s benefits.

What Requirements Should Methadone Clinics Meet?

To gain the certifications required to dispense medication-assisted treatments, methadone clinics must meet a few federal guidelines and protocols, such as:

  • Perform a complete physical examination on all patients under the supervision of a licensed practitioner prior to treatment. They must also provide full documentation of the examination. 
  • Have adequate policies and procedures in place to cater to the unique needs of pregnant patients. They should be able to provide prenatal care or refer such patients to appropriate services. 
  • Perform an initial assessment and subsequent periodic assessments on patients to develop and modify treatment plans as needed. 
  • Provide adequate substance abuse counseling through qualified professionals. 
  • Staff must conduct a minimum of eight drug tests per patient per year. Short-term detox programs require an initial drug test, while long-term detox programs require an initial drug test and randomized drug tests each month. 

The above are some of the basic services provided by all methadone clinics. The best clinics will go above and beyond such requirements to provide their patients with the highest level of care. 

Methadone Clinic - Turning-Point-Centers

Benefits of Methadone Clinics 

Some of the main benefits of methadone clinics are their cost, time-effectiveness, and convenience. Unlike residential treatment, methadone clinics require patients to only pay for the medications and services provided and not for accommodations. They also provide patients the flexibility to receive treatment while continuing their routine life with minimal interruptions. As long as patients commit to visiting the clinic every day to receive treatment and counseling, they can successfully participate in methadone maintenance treatment. 

Methadone maintenance treatment helps patients apply the skills learned during therapy and counseling sessions in their daily lives rather than at the end of their rehabilitation program. This helps people in recovery and counselors navigate through issues as and when they arise. 

Methadone maintenance programs are regarded as the gold standard for opioid addiction treatment. Methadone maintenance treatment has a success rate of 90 percent. Those who employ methadone services do have a better long-term prognosis than those who don’t. Its efficacy over 40 years has led to it being regarded as the most standard of opioid addiction treatment strategies.

In the United States, drug use has risen across all generations, genders, and demographics. Drug misuse has reached unprecedented levels, whether it’s heroin, prescription medication, marijuana, or synthetics. Since drugs are illegal and many people don’t discuss their drug use openly, assessing the exact scope of drug use in the United States is extremely difficult. Several surveys, studies, and publications, on the other hand, show that American drug use is exceptionally high, possibly reaching historic levels. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), around 31.9 million Americans aged 12 and older are “current users” of illicit drugs.

Substance abuse and addiction are unfortunately unavoidable in many cultures. People would still experiment with drugs due to natural curiosity, youthful rebelliousness, and various other factors. Experimentation can lead to abuse and then addiction in some cases. At this point, you will need the assistance of qualified practitioners to assist you in your battle against addiction.

Drug rehabilitation is an addiction treatment program that helps people dealing with substance abuse get the support they need to overcome their addiction. In the United States, there are currently over 14,000 drug rehabilitation centers, and the number is steadily increasing.

The Process of Drug Rehabilitation 

Initially, an addiction counselor or mental health professional will conduct an assessment before beginning treatment. This evaluation will gather information on substance abuse, medical records, drug screening, among other information that could prove useful for a diagnosis. The medical professional will collect information about: 

  • The pattern of drug and alcohol abuse 
  • Medical history 
  • Physical health complications  
  • Blood pressure and other vital signs 
  • Previous detoxification or rehabilitation experiences 
  • Living conditions, financial status, and legal status 
  • Risk of suicide or violence 
  • Cognitive, sensory, or physical disabilities 

The information gathered by the evaluation is used to develop an individualized treatment plan that meets each patient’s unique requirements. This treatment plan can include the following components: 

  • Individual therapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) or contingency management 
  • Group counseling. 
  • Introduction to support groups, such as Narcotics Anonymous (NA) or Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). 
  • Family therapy sessions. 
  • Suitable behavioral therapies or alternative therapies. 
  • The use of medications to alleviate severe withdrawals and cravings.
  • Aftercare planning and relapse prevention education. 

Each of these treatment elements helps patients overcome their psychological dependence on an addictive substance. Individual therapy helps patients recognize and deal with stimuli. These therapies can also assist in developing and improving emotional skills to prevent relapses. 

Family therapies help mend strained relationships with loved ones and help educate families on the nature of addiction. Support groups provide a sense of community with like-minded individuals. Group counseling provides patients with accountability for their behavior and actions.

Medication-assisted treatment programs utilize FDA-approved medications such as Suboxone and methadone in conjunction with behavioral therapy to help patients overcome their life of dependence and addiction.

Drug Rehabilitation

Types of Drug Rehabilitation Centers 

Depending on many factors, such as the severity of addiction and the substance of abuse, patients can choose from a wide range of drug rehabilitation centers. Since there is no “one size fits all” solution to overcoming an addiction, it’s vital to seek the assistance and guidance of a physician or an addiction specialist to help you choose the right rehab program for you.

As per the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the first step of any rehabilitation program is the detoxification process. A detox program helps patients safely manage withdrawal symptoms while flushing out the addictive substance from the body. Detox programs are available at all inpatient programs and certain outpatient programs. 

Here are a few types of drug rehabs for you to choose from:

Inpatient rehabilitation: Also known as long-term residential rehabs, provide comprehensive treatment programs that address all aspects of an individual’s addiction. Inpatient rehabs are substance-free facilities that provide 24-hour medical assistance and support. Individuals battling chronic drug and alcohol addiction and those suffering from co-occurring psychiatric or behavioral illnesses must seek treatment in an inpatient rehab facility. 

Outpatient rehabilitation: Outpatient rehabilitation is another form of rehab center that is ideal for patients with mild to moderate drug addiction or dependence. Outpatient recovery programs provide many of the same treatments found at an inpatient center but without the rigid structure. Patients are given the flexibility to return home each day after their treatment. The outpatient setting helps patients receive treatment while maintaining their home and work life.

Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP): Also referred to as day programs, PHP includes many of the elements found in inpatient and outpatient programs. PHP provides intensive treatment without the need for an overnight stay. And a more structured recovery plan than a traditional outpatient program. These services successfully treat a variety of mental health conditions, including substance use disorders (SUD).

Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOPs): IOP is an ideal recovery plan for people with substance use disorders or co-occurring mental health disorders who do not require medical detoxification or around-the-clock care. IOPs enable patients to continue with their regular, day-to-day lives while receiving the treatment they require. IOPs are also used as a step-down program after completing an inpatient program to help patients gradually intergrade back into society.

Services Provided by Drug Rehabs 

Services provided by drug rehab centers may vary from the type of rehab chosen and the patient’s requirements. But most rehabs provide services such as:

  • Detoxification programs: Detox is the first stage of a rehabilitation program. It helps patients address the physical dependence on an addictive substance while flushing it out of their bodies. Depending on the severity of addiction, withdrawal symptoms can vary in intensity and duration. Those who are likely to endure severe withdrawal syndrome will be provided medically assisted detoxification in helping to minimize the risks involved. Detox programs are widely available through inpatient settings and certain outpatient programs.

After completing detox, patients can focus on addressing their psychological dependence on drugs and alcohol.

  • Individual therapy: Individualized therapy assists patients in developing coping mechanisms and resources to abstain from substance usage and sustain abstinence through focusing on short-term behavioral objectives. It helps patients understand and recognize triggers and teach them positive and effective ways to deal with them.
  • Group Therapy: Most rehabs employ group counseling to maximize social support and to encourage a drug-free lifestyle. Effective results are achieved when group therapy is delivered in combination with individualized addiction treatment or is formatted to incorporate cognitive-behavioral therapy or contingency management concepts. 
  • Family therapy: Addiction is a widespread disease with far-reaching consequences. When one family member deals with addiction, it can have a detrimental impact on the entire family system by causing them to experience increased stress and anxiety. Drug abuse is referred to as a family disease because of its grip on families. 

Family therapy helps mend strained relationships and create awareness of the nature of addiction. It helps families better understand the person suffering from SUD. And how best to support them after rehabilitation.

  • Aftercare programs: Addiction recovery is a lifelong process with a high probability of relapse even after successfully completing rehab. So building a solid aftercare plan is critical, but the specific components of aftercare can vary from person to person. Many drug treatment centers provide their own follow-up services to help patients adjust to their new lives. Aftercare programs offer additional therapy, workshops, and programs for alumni of the recovery program.

They also provide introductions to support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA), two of the most well-known 12-step programs, with meetings held around the country and attended by many people suffering from addiction.

Duration of Drug Rehab Treatment 

The duration of drug treatment programs can vary from patient to patient. However, the available length of rehab programs are:

  • 30-day program
  • 60-day program
  • 90-day program

There are two types of drug rehabilitation stays; short-term and long-term. The average length of time spent in short-term recovery is 28 to 30 days. Long-term recovery, on the other hand, usually lasts about 90 days. Detoxification programs can last for one to two weeks for both treatment options. To get clean and start a plan for long-term rehabilitation, most patients require at least three months of rehab.

The Benefits of Drug Rehabilitation 

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), one cannot simply stop using drugs for a few days and be cured. Therefore, professional medical treatment is necessary to overcome drug abuse and addiction issues. Here are five significant advantages of a drug rehabilitation program. 

  • Provides a safe environment: Removing an individual from an environment that encourages drug abuse can help them in their journey to recovery. Rehabs provide patients with support,  guidance, and effective tools in helping them address all aspects of addiction.
  • Build peer support: Being surrounded by people who understand what you’re going through can create a sense of community most individuals suffering from SUD lack. Your peers help you stay accountable for your actions and provide valuable insight in helping you overcome your struggles.
  • Helps strengthen relationships: Rehab programs provide family therapy that helps mend broken or strained relationships. They help loved ones understand the true nature of addiction and how best to handle stressful situations once a loved one returns home after rehab.
  • Breaking the cycle of addiction: There are many reasons why individuals become addicted to drugs. Understanding the root cause can help you avoid a relapse in the future. Therapies and counseling provided by rehabs help patients uncover their triggers so they could be avoided or effectively managed. 
  • Promotes a healthy lifestyle: Developing habits that promote a healthy lifestyle can gradually reverse the physical and emotional damages done by substance abuse and improve your quality of life.

What to Look for in a Drug Rehab?

Deciding on a drug rehab center for yourself or a loved one can be difficult and sometimes overwhelming. Here are some questions to ask and consider before making a choice that is right for you. 

  • What types of licensing or accreditation does the facility have? 
  • What qualifications or licenses do the rehab staff have? 
  • Do they provide medically assisted treatment programs? 
  • What’s the patient-to-staff ratio at the rehab? 
  • Do they provide evidence-based treatments? 
  • Do they provide services tailored to particular genders? 
  • How effective is their recovery program? 
  • Does the rehab accept my insurance? 
  • Do they provide treatment for co-occurring disorders and other psychiatric disorders? 
  • Do they provide medical detoxification programs? 
  • What age group of patients does the rehab accept? 
  • How long will the program last? 
  • What type of post-treatment support do they offer? 

Drug rehabilitation aims to help people avoid using drugs and learn how to live productive lives. Recovery entails more than just getting clean and sober; it also entails rebuilding your life on a more strong and secure platform. Drug rehabilitation programs help individuals regain their independence and improve their quality of life.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines methamphetamine as an extremely addictive central nervous system (CNS) stimulant that can cause significant harm to users when misused. Regrettably, though, the availability of methamphetamine and the consequences of its use have increased dramatically in the US in recent years. Between 2015 and 2018, a total of 1.6 million American adults confirmed methamphetamine usage. And co-occurring disorders and psychiatric disorders were widespread among those who abused methamphetamine. Because of the devastating long-term consequences of meth use, it is critical to understand the signs and symptoms of addiction to help diagnose and treat this dangerous disease promptly.

What Is Methamphetamine?

Methamphetamine was first used as a nasal decongestant and bronchial inhaler in the early twentieth century. However, the severe physical impact of crystal methamphetamine caused it to be labeled as one of the most dangerous drugs to enter the US illicit drug market. Methamphetamines relate to a broad range of drugs. While some forms are utilized as a genuine treatment for attention deficit disorder and narcolepsy, their use is restricted due to the severity of its side effects and its high potential for addiction. And thus, methamphetamine medications are classified as Schedule II drugs under the Controlled Substance Act. Crystal meth, on the other hand, is an illegal product manufactured in unregulated meth labs.

Street-level crystal meth is chemically classified as d-methamphetamine HCL. Crystal meth, as its name denotes, is crystalline in nature, and many with methamphetamine addiction abuse it in this form. The crystals can be crushed and ingested by mouth, smoked, snorted, or injected. The street versions of meth are also known as Speed, Rocket, Scooby Snax, Ice, Crystal, and Trash.

Signs of Meth Addiction

The signs and symptoms of methamphetamine addiction differ from person to person. Symptoms and their severity depend on the level of usage and the method of ingestion. The drug has a profound effect on the user’s brain and body, and the symptoms and signs of its use are noticeable in several ways.

One of the first indications of meth addiction is a sudden loss of interest in life aspects that were once significant to the individual. Hobbies, relationships, and job aspirations will continue to take a back seat during drug use. Physical signs of meth use and addiction may include:

  • Not being able to sleep
  • Not eating
  • Extreme skin breakouts
  • Weight loss
  • Long periods of not sleeping, alternating with long periods of sleep (24-48 hours)
  • Excessive sweating
  • Sores that have trouble healing
  • Rotting teeth
  • Paranoia
  • Shaking and twitchiness
  • Non-stop, rapid talking
  • Short temper

The use of this drug also contributes to a drastic shift in behavior and habits. And users can experience extreme euphoria or exhibit aggression and violence. When using methamphetamines, a person can stay awake for days and ‘crash’ and sleep for days afterward. Meth addiction may induce psychosis in some users, and symptoms of this condition can include:

  • Delusions
  • Paranoia
  • Irritability

Meth Addiction Behavior

Severe scratching is a physical side effect induced by psychosis due to the sensation of bugs crawling over the skin. And picking and scratching are ways to ease this perceived hallucination. Consequently, skin abrasions and rashes are likely to occur and are some of the physical signs of detecting if a loved one is misusing methamphetamines.

Another behavioral sign of misuse is frequent repetitive behaviors, such as obsessive cleaning or taking apart objects and then placing them back together. As per the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), this is caused by long-term meth usage leading to changes in brain regions that help regulate repetitive activities. Other behavioral signs of meth use may include:

  • Speaking fast and moving between topics quickly
  • Less need for food or loss of appetite
  • Unable to sit still
  • High motivation to accomplish tasks
  • Less need for sleep
  • Exhibiting risky behaviors

If you live around someone who uses this drug, you may also come across paraphernalia such as burned spoons, syringes, and needles.

The Warning Signs of Meth Addiction

Symptoms of Meth Addiction

Doctors use the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM–5) to verify if someone is struggling with substance use disorder. A user may be clinically diagnosed with meth use disorder if he/she meets more than two of the following criteria within twelve months:

  • Using the drug even in situations that are threatening to the user and others, such as driving under the influence or overdosing.
  • Neglecting personal, professional, or academic responsibilities.
  • Requiring more quantities of the drug to get the same feeling (drug tolerance).
  • Using larger amounts of the substance for extended periods.
  • Experiencing social or interpersonal problems caused by drug misuse.
  • Repeated failed attempts to control or quit methamphetamine use altogether.
  • Spending excessive amounts of time abusing the substance.
  • Developing psychological symptoms or physical problems because of drug use.
  • Giving up activities you once loved so you could spend more time using meth.
  • Experiencing drug cravings.
  • Experiencing effects of withdrawal when not using or attempting to quit meth.

Experiencing withdrawal symptoms is a notable sign of drug addiction. And symptoms of meth withdrawal may include anxiety, fatigue, drug cravings, and hallucinations.

Long-Term and Short-Term Side Effects of Meth Abuse

Methamphetamine’s effects may last anywhere from 8 to 24 hours, which is a comparatively longer period than other drugs. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the most common short-term side effects of methamphetamine abuse include:

  • Suppressed appetite
  • Aggression and violent behavior
  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety
  • Increased heart rate
  • Chest pain
  • Flushed or itchy skin
  • Paranoia
  • Elevated body temperature
  • Muscle twitching
  • Hallucinations
  • Fatal drug overdose

Other than the short-term side effects, the use of this drug can also result in the following long-term side effects:

  • Respiratory issues
  • Heart disease/heart attacks
  • Premature aging
  • Congenital disabilities
  • High blood pressure
  • Sudden cardiac death
  • Liver damage
  • Brain damage
  • Blackened, rotting teeth (meth mouth)
  • Reproductive issues
  • Skin infection
  • Seizures
  • Arrhythmias
  • Kidney failure
  • Malnutrition

Meth consists of a high potential for causing fatal overdoses. Overdose with methamphetamine may trigger chest pain, breathing difficulties, seizures, and coma. Professional medical care is essential for treating most of these meth-use-related side effects in people with methamphetamine addiction.

Methamphetamine Addiction Treatment

Addiction to this drug is one of the most complex substance use disorders to manage. Nevertheless, medical experts have combined treatment interventions to help people with methamphetamine abuse manage this issue.

Recovery from meth use disorder requires a structured meth recovery regimen consisting of detoxification, counseling, and therapy. Medical detox eliminates the physical presence of the drug from the body and helps minimize withdrawal symptoms through the use of medications.

While detox helps alleviate physical dependence, counseling will resolve the psychological aspect of dependence. Education provided during the treatment process will also help sustain long-term sobriety.

Due to the complexity of addiction recovery, it’s highly advisable to seek support and guidance through an addiction specialist to achieve prolonged recovery.

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