If someone is experiencing periods of physical pain, as they might after having surgery or suffering a serious injury like a broken bone, it’s not unusual to be prescribed some form of pain medication by their doctor as part of a treatment plan. In the recent past, it’s been especially common for doctors to prescribe a class of drugs called opioids for their effectiveness in reducing pain.
Though opioids are effective pain killers, they are also, however, potentially addictive. The widespread prescription of opioids for pain management in recent years has led to high rates of addiction in the U.S. and elsewhere, leading to what has come to be known as the Opioid Crisis.
This article will list the symptoms of opioid withdrawal, and the ways in which freedom from dependency on opioids can be achieved. But before you try to understand what recovery from opioid dependency can look like, it’s important to know what opioids are and how they affect your body.
How Do Opioids Work?
Opioid drugs are derived from the opioid poppy plant, or are synthetically manufactured. They take drug form as morphine, codeine, heroin or methadone. The prescription forms of the drug usually fall under the brand names Oxycontin, Vicodin or Dilaudid.
These drugs are very effective at treating pain because they attach themselves to opioid receptors in your brain, spinal cord and digestive tract, where they slow the communication of pain through the nervous system. They also affect the limbic system of the brain, which calms anxiety and depression, and causes sensations of pleasure and relaxation.
Over time, the effectiveness of these drugs decreases as your body grows accustomed to the chemical. Subsequently, more drug is needed in order to achieve the same pain relieving effect. The longer you take opioid drugs, the higher dose you may need, and as your body becomes accustomed to having the drug in your system, dependency can take hold.
What Causes Opioid Withdrawal?
As your body chemistry changes with the addition of opioids in your system, you may begin to feel pain, anxiety, depression and other symptoms if you stop taking them. These are signs of opioid withdrawal and are an indication that your body has become physically dependent on the drug in order to feel normal.
Sometimes people feel the need to continue taking opioids after their doctor has stopped their prescription because of the discomfort they feel by no longer taking them. This causes some people to seek out these drugs from illegal sources, or to find illegal forms of this class of drug, such as heroin. This misuse of opioids is extremely dangerous and can easily lead to overdose. But stopping can be very difficult and even painful, and symptoms of opioid withdrawal can become life threatening.
Symptoms Of Opioid Withdrawal
The first symptoms of opioid withdrawal can occur within about 24 hours after use of the drug has stopped, and usually progress in stages. The stages of opioid withdrawal tend to fall into two categories – the first 24 hours, or early symptoms, and after 24 hours, lasting from three to ten days, or later symptoms.
Early symptoms of opioid withdrawal can include:
- Body aches
- Teary eyes
- Runny nose
- Excessive yawning
Later symptoms of opioid withdrawal can include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Abdominal cramps
- High blood pressure
- Rapid breathing
- Blurry vision
- Chills and goosebumps
The severity of these symptoms, and the potential for other symptoms, depends on which specific drugs you’re taking, the amounts and duration of use, and your individual health and physiology. It is crucial that you consult your doctor immediately if you experience any opioid withdrawal symptoms.
Potential Complications From Opioid Withdrawal
The later symptoms of opioid withdrawal can become intense and potentially harmful. Diarrhea can lead to dehydration, which can cause an irregular heartbeat, or even a heart attack. Vomiting can be very uncomfortable and can lead to aspiration of vomit into the lungs.
Because of the risks associated with opioid withdrawal, it’s important to seek help from a qualified supervised detoxification program.
Supervised Detoxification From Opioids
Suddenly stopping opioid use cold turkey can lead to a sudden onset of withdrawal symptoms that may lead to intense suffering and potentially dangerous complications. A doctor can evaluate the level of your dependency and prescribe a gradual decrease of the drug over a predetermined amount of time.
If you’re in a controlled setting like a rehab center, your detoxification symptoms can be carefully monitored and your discomfort greatly lessened by supervised use of other medications to ease suffering. The discomfort of detox can become so unpleasant that a vast majority of people who attempt to stop opioid use on their own fail to free themselves from dependency.
Medical and emotional support, as well as a safe and worry-free environment is the best method for successful opioid detoxification.
Long-Term Freedom From Opioid Dependency
The Raleigh House, near Denver, Colorado, offers expert help as you detox from opioids or other addictive drugs or alcohol. You will be surrounded by safety and comfort, and be monitored 24 hours a day, with medicines and counseling to ease symptoms of opioid withdrawal and stay on track until your body is drug free.
And after detox, your path to long-term recovery is just beginning. You’ll be given a treatment plan customized to your physical and emotional needs, guided through each step of your individual program, and always treated with the compassion and respect you deserve.
If you’re ready to begin your journey to lasting recovery, health and freedom from addiction, contact us now. We’re ready to help you.