Opioid Withdrawal and Effects
Anyone prescribed opioids is at risk for developing a dependency. These drugs are prescribed primarily for pain relief for patients who have sustained a significant injury, had surgery or are receiving treatment for cancer. Short-term use of these medications is relatively safe if the patient follows the exact dosage instructions, does not take larger doses of the drug and does not continue taking the drug beyond the recommended time frame. Unfortunately, as many as one in four patients on long-term opioid therapy is addicted to opioids (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2019).
The reason these drugs are so addictive is due to the way they interact with our bodies. Opioids work by binding to opioid receptors in the brain, spinal cord and areas of the body. Essentially, they tell your brain you are not in pain. In addition to alleviating moderate to severe pain relief, people taking this class of drugs report feelings of pleasure. When the pleasurable feelings and the pain begin to return, people are often tempted to take another dose sooner in order to feel good again. This is the often the beginning of a vicious cycle.
Many people who become addicted to opioids report it started with a prescription. Once the prescription runs out and the person’s doctor is no longer willing to prescribe the powerful pain reliever, the person is left with extreme cravings for the drug. These cravings often come with physical withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal symptoms can begin within the first 12 hours after stopping the drug and may include:
- Muscle aches
- Lacrimation (eyes tearing up)
- Runny nose
- Excessive sweating
- Frequent yawning
After the first wave of withdrawal symptoms, the next wave begins after 30 hours and are often more intense and may include:
- High blood pressure
- Rapid heartbeat
- Dilated pupils
- Nausea and vomiting
- Abdominal cramping
- Muscle aches
Those experiencing opioid withdrawal are at risk of complications. For example, a person who is vomiting due to withdrawal symptoms is at risk for aspiration pneumonia (Case-Lo, 2017). Aspiration pneumonia is caused by inadvertently breathing in vomited material into the lungs. Therefore, it’s imperative to detox from opioids under the safety and supervision of medical professionals.
The third, and final wave of opioid withdrawal symptoms happens around the 72-hour mark. This is the peak of withdrawal symptoms, making the need for medical observation vital for patient safety. Patients generally experience the most intense withdrawal symptoms approximately 72-hours after their last opioid use.
Opioid Withdrawal Timeline:
There are typically three stages to opioid withdrawal:
6 to 12 Hours:
Symptoms begin for short-acting opiates. Symptoms may include sweating, eyes tearing up, muscle aches and anxiety.
Symptoms begin for long-acting opiates. Same symptoms as with short-acting opiates. Additional symptoms may include high blood pressure, goosebumps, nausea and vomiting and rapid heart rate.
Peak of withdrawal symptoms. Patients will continue to need the highest level of care until this phase passes. Symptoms may include vomiting, diarrhea, depression and severe drug cravings.
Opioid addiction is a serious disease that needs to be treated under the supervision of a licensed medical treatment center. This is for the safety of the person receiving treatment. The first step in treating opioid addiction is medical detoxification. Detoxification is the process of eliminating all drugs, alcohol and other toxins in the body. People undergoing detox are at the greatest risk for complications, making it imperative that they be under the supervision of medical professionals should any adverse side effects arise. It’s important to note that it’s extremely dangerous to attempt to detox by yourself at home. This is because a person attempting to detox alone runs the risk of complications and withdrawal symptoms that can be both unpleasant and painful. Furthermore, there is no medical staff to ensure that the detox process goes smoothly and safely.
The next stage of care is inpatient treatment. All patients that have successfully completed detox continue to residential treatment. This is the time when patients can focus 100 percent of their time and energy on themselves and their recovery. Daylight Recovery Center’s inpatient treatment program provides patients with structured programs designed to help them achieve sobriety. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) coupled with motivational incentives are used to treat the patient’s mind, body and soul. CBT includes private and group therapy sessions, counseling, coping tools and relapse prevention. Motivational incentives include science-based, integrative services such as massage therapy, meditation, chiropractic, auriculotherapy and nutrition education.
There is no specific time frame for detox as multiple factors contribute to how long it takes for all toxins to exit the body. The type of drugs used, amount and duration are just some factors that determine the length of detox. The important thing to remember when undergoing detox is that it is not a race. Every person is different, and for this reason, we create a tailormade treatment plan for each patient’s specific needs. Patients take comfort in knowing they have a kind and compassionate medical team by their side throughout the whole process to ensure they can safely detox.
Patients enjoy having their own flat screen television while resting in bed, Chef-inspired meals, exercise equipment, patio area, a game room and look at our 450-gallon saltwater aquarium. Our high staff to patient ratio ensures that each patient receives the individualized care that he/she needs and deserves. For more information, contact our admissions department 24/7 at (888) 708-2602.
Daylight Recovery Center is a nationally recognized substance abuse treatment center that has helped thousands of people suffering from opioid addiction. When a patient arrives to our center, he/she is welcomed with open arms. We understand the pain and suffering that comes with addiction and believe that no one should have to fight this battle alone. Should a patient experience any temporary discomfort or pain while undergoing medical detox, our medical and clinical team will be quick to respond. Sometimes medications will be administered to alleviate any temporary discomfort.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2019) Prescription Opioids. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/opioids/prescribed.html
Case-Lo, C. (2017, July 26) Withdrawing from Opiates and Opioids. Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health/opiate-withdrawal
Martin, L (2019, May 23) Symptoms of Opioid Withdrawal. Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/addiction/opioid-withdrawal-symptoms#1
Sissons, B. (2019, September 2) What to know about opiate withdrawal. Retrieved from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/326223.php