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Recovering from an opiate addiction can be a long and often painful process both physically and emotionally. Of course, the alternative of continuing your opiate addiction can have far more damaging consequences and even potentially end in death. Still, the unfortunate truth is that many addicts fail to get the help and treatment they need to overcome their addiction for one reason or another. In many cases, the fear of possibly losing their job or even missing out on a few weeks or months of income is one of the main factors that keeps people away from an opiate detox program. In light of this, here is a handy guide that should help to answer any questions you might have about continuing to work as you seek treatment for your opiate addiction.

The Ins and Outs of Opiate Detox and Withdrawal

Before getting into the question of whether you can still work while undergoing opiate addiction treatment, it is first necessary to understand a bit more about opiate detox and withdrawal. Individuals who are addicted to heroin, oxycodone and other opiates eventually will begin to develop a chemical dependence on the drug, and this dependence only ever worsens over time with continued opiate abuse.

What happens is that the person’s body begins to undergo various chemical and physiological changes that lead to a higher and higher level of opiate dependency. Unfortunately, reversing these changes isn’t an easy or fun process. Nonetheless, it is one that begins to happen automatically within a matter of hours after the person stops using, and it manifests itself in a wide range of mild to potentially life-threatening symptoms of withdrawal.

In fact, these withdrawal symptoms are often so severe that they are part of the reason a person becomes a fully blown addict in the first place. After all, the only way to get rid of the symptoms is to either take more opiates or attempt to ride them out, which can be one of the most unpleasant and possibly dangerous things a person can ever go through. Typically, the first symptoms of opiate withdrawal begin to occur during the first day or so of the detoxification process as the body begins to cleanse itself of all of the remaining opiates and associated chemicals.

After the first day or so, the initial physiological and mental symptoms begin to fade and are replaced by longer lasting, more intense and potentially dangerous symptoms, including:

  • Extreme paranoia and hallucinations
  • Abdominal cramps, nausea, diarrhea and vomiting
  • High blood pressure and severely elevated heartbeat
  • Hyperactivity and intense mood swings

Generally, these symptoms will start to peak after approximately 36 to 48 hours before slowly beginning to fade after three or four days. Although the first few days can be extremely intense and possibly life-threatening, most people will begin to feel completely normal again after a week or so.

Continuing to Work While Attending an Opiate Detox Facility

The fact that the first week of opiate detox is so extremely unpleasant and possibly dangerous means that it is always best done at an inpatient detox facility. This way, the recovering addict will not only have medical assistance on hand if needed, but they will eliminate their chances of potentially relapsing during this critical period. Detoxing is the very first and most difficult step on the long road to recovery, and it is one that typically requires around-the-clock care.

For this reason, it is usually impossible to work for at least the first week while you’re attending an inpatient detox facility. Nonetheless, this isn’t always the case as people with more minor opiate addictions usually won’t experience nearly as severe withdrawal symptoms. In fact, some people can easily overcome the worst of things within a day or two with the help of an outpatient facility and the love and support of family and friends.

Although fully recovering from an opiate addiction can be a lifelong process, the hardest part is definitely those first few days or week. Following this, many people find that they are able to successfully continue on the road to recovery with the assistance of an outpatient opiate addiction program. In this case, it should be fully possible to return to work almost immediately after completing the initial period of detox or as soon as you’re completely over all of the symptoms of withdrawal.

How the Government Helps to Ensure Your Job Is Protected

There is usually no reason to worry that entering an opiate detox facility will cause you to lose your job as the government has protections in place to help prevent this. Under the terms of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act, employers are legally obligated to provide their employees with up to 12 weeks of sick leave in case of necessary medical treatment. The important thing to know here is that addiction is classified as an illness, which means that addiction treatment qualifies the same as any other necessary medical treatment.

For anyone seeking help for an opiate addiction, this means that you usually won’t have to worry about being fired for entering an inpatient or outpatient treatment facility providing you meet certain basic criteria. All government agencies and other organizations over a certain size are legally required to provide employees with sick leave as long as the individual in question has been employed for at least one year.

In order to take advantage of your guaranteed sick leave, you must first notify your employer of your need to take leave and of your rights to have it covered by the FMLA protections. Although you must provide notification of your necessary medical leave, you are not legally required to disclose that it is for addiction treatment. This means you don’t have to worry about suffering any negative consequences or stigma as a result. Unfortunately, it is up to your employer whether this leave will be paid or unpaid. Nonetheless, you may be able to apply for short-term disability to ensure you will still receive some income while you undergo treatment.

The fact that most people are easily able to continue working while seeking opiate addiction treatment should come as great news to anyone considering getting the help they need to overcome their issues. If you’re ready for help, it only takes one call to get started. Our counselors are available 24 hours a day, so call us today at 877-978-3125