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Opioid Withdrawal Doesn’t Have to Be More Painful Than Anything in the World

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Opioids are powerfully addictive. Withdrawing from these drugs can be so painful and distressing that it stops many users from quitting. But current medical approaches to opioid detox are making it possible to withdraw from opioid addiction with less pain and discomfort than ever.

Why Is Withdrawal Painful?

Opioids are a class of drugs that includes prescription medications such as Oxycontin and Vicodin, as well as the street drug heroin. These drugs bind to the body’s own opioid receptors, which block sensations of pain and promote feelings of calm and relaxation.

Over time, the body adapts to the drug, and a user needs to take higher and higher doses to get the same effect.

The body’s natural opioid receptors are found not just in the brain, but in many other areas of the body too, including the spinal cord and gastrointestinal tract. When an opioid user stops taking the drug, these affected systems and organs respond to its absence with an array of physical and psychological symptoms.

Symptoms of Opioid Withdrawal

Opioid withdrawal symptoms start within 6 to 12 hours of taking the last dose. Symptoms peak at around 72 hours after stopping the drug and usually last a week or so. Typical withdrawal symptoms include:

Opioid Withdrawal

Fever and nausea are common opioid withdrawal symptoms.

  • Muscle aches
  • Anxiety and agitation
  • Insomnia
  • Hypertension
  • Racing heart
  • Fever
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach cramping
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Drug cravings

Medications and professional support can reduce those painful symptoms and help users break free of addiction.

Medications for Opioid Withdrawal

Opioid users who try to quit “cold turkey” often fail because of withdrawal symptoms that drive them back to using the drug. That’s why addiction professionals recommend medically supervised detox, which uses a variety of medications to ease the pain and discomfort of withdrawal.

People with opioid addictions can go through medically supervised withdrawal in both inpatient and outpatient rehab programs. This process usually involves taking medications to stop drug cravings and withdrawal symptoms. These medications are then gradually tapered down, so that the body has time to adjust without the shock of sudden withdrawal. Medications used in opioid withdrawal can include:

  • Buprenorphine – a drug that mimics the effects of opioids without the “high”
  • Naloxone or Naltrexone – drugs which block opioid receptors entirely
  • Suboxone, a combination of buprenorphine and naloxone
  • Methadone, an opioid substitute typically used for heroin recovery

Other drugs that can help ease pain during withdrawal include clonidine, a drug originally used to stop seizures, and symptom-specific medications for nausea and muscle aches.

7 Ways to Know Your Loved One is Suffering from Opioid Withdrawal

Rapid Detox Options

Rapid detox processes bypass the discomforts of a week or more of withdrawal with a single intensive procedure that typically lasts less than a day. Rapid detox takes place in a hospital intensive care unit under general anesthesia. While sedated, a patient is given intravenous injections of buprenorphine, naloxone and medications to reduce pain and nausea.

With no complications, rapid detox patients are usually discharged in about 48 hours, to begin work on recovery in an inpatient or outpatient rehab program. Rapid detox and its high-speed version, ultra rapid detox, aren’t for everyone, though. This aggressive withdrawal treatment can pose serious risks for those with chronic medical conditions or poor overall health.

Rapid stepped detox is a gentler version of rapid detox that involves a course of naloxone and naltrexone, delivered every hour or so under medical supervision for a day or less. Patients stay awake and can take buprenorphine tablets if they begin to have withdrawal symptoms.

Opioid addiction has powerful effects on the body and brain, as demonstrated by the pain and discomfort of withdrawal. But with medical support and the help of trained addiction specialists, withdrawing from opioids doesn’t have to be more painful than anything in the world.

Are you worried about using opioids – but afraid to quit?  Help is just a phone call away. Contact us at 888-602-1971(Who Answers?) to find the solutions you need right now.

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