Opiates are a form of drug that comes in many different varieties—and all of them can be very addictive. Whether individuals are addicted to heroin or prescription painkillers, their dependence on opiates will be very powerful. As a result, withdrawing from an opiate addiction can be challenging, as well as uncomfortable. Thankfully, there are several effective methods used by detox and rehab facilities that help ease the pain and discomfort of an opiate withdrawal.
What to Expect From an Opiate Withdrawal
Before diving into the ways that opiate withdrawal symptoms can be eased, it’s important to paint a realistic picture of the withdrawal process. Also called a detox, the withdrawal is a process that can last anywhere from one to two weeks. This is the phase where people who are addicted to opiates quit their consumption altogether.
As a direct response to the cessation of opiate consumption, individuals struggling with this addiction will begin to immediately notice some discomfort. Withdrawal symptoms are both physical and psychological, and they can begin in as little as six hours after the last dose is taken. Just a few of the most common withdrawal symptoms during an opiate detox might include:
- Muscle aches and pains
- Uncontrollable shaking or tremors
- Runny nose
- Diarrhea and abdominal cramping
- High heart rate and increased blood pressure
- Severe temperature fluctuations
- Extreme sweating and dehydration
Because of the severity of these withdrawal symptoms, many individuals addicted to opiates find the best chance at a complete withdrawal happens in a professional detox or rehab facility. There, patients can receive expert treatment that eases the pain of withdrawal and holds them accountable to their ultimate goal of lasting sobriety.
Medically Assisted Detox
One of the most effective ways to ease the discomfort of opiate withdrawal is by implementing a medically-assisted detox. Essentially, this is a detox where patients are provided with a substitute drug that tricks the body and brain into thinking it’s receiving a dose of heroin, prescription painkillers or any other opiate-based substance. While these drugs can substantially reduce withdrawal symptoms in an opiate detox, they don’t deliver a high to patients.
Using synthetic drugs is a hot-button issue for a number of reasons. The first is because when administered improperly, these synthetic drugs and opiate substitutes can themselves become addictive. The second concern is that through a weaning process, patients are simply dealing with a longer period of withdrawal and dependence. However, there’s no denying that medically assisted detoxes can help to make the withdrawal process less uncomfortable.
There are two primary substances used in an opiate withdrawal that can activate the opioid receptors among patients without creating a high. The first and most common is Suboxone, which features a unique property that ensures the drug can’t be misused. Another is Methadone, which works in a similar way and is now a staple of detox in many recovery facilities.
Unlike in an alcohol detox, where there’s the risk of long-term damage to health as a result of the body breaking ties to its addiction, an opiate detox is largely about managing the pain and discomfort of the process. Many individuals who have gone through an opiate detox compare it to a very bad case of the flu.
As a result, some of the most effective means of combating things like diarrhea or a runny nose are ordinary, over-the-counter medications. Antihistamines, aspirin and similar products can make a difference to those suffering from opiate withdrawal symptoms. Imodium, in particular, is effective as a way to prevent diarrhea and cramping because it’s actually a form of mild opiate.
While these over-the-counter medications are readily available, only medical professionals familiar with the detox process will be able to administer them appropriately. Dosing is an important concern, as is the mixing of contraindicated medications. Therefore, it’s always best for those ready to withdrawal from opiates to seek help in a licensed, regulated recovery facility.
Providing Physical Comforts
Don’t underestimate the value of comfort during treatment, particularly in an opiate withdrawal. The process is a challenging one, but it can be made easier when individuals are in a hospitable climate and surrounded by people who care about their well-being.
Trying to detox from home, for instance, might mean sleeping in sweat-soaked sheets because the idea of doing laundry is such a daunting task. In a rehab or detox program, patients will have all of their basic needs met. Having warm, nutritious meals available, medical staff on-call 24/7 and a comfortable bed can sometimes make all the difference.
Most of the symptoms that prove to be uncomfortable during an opiate withdrawal are physical in nature. However, it should be noted that many of the symptoms are psychological. Things like depression and anxiety are common as the body begins to break its dependence on opiates.
Dual Diagnosis Treatment
Some patients are also dealing with underlying mental health issues that demand treatment. Bipolar disorder, severe depression or schizophrenia are major concerns that could inhibit proper recovery.
As a result, dual diagnosis treatment can and should be implemented in these cases. Dual diagnosis acknowledges the role of mental health in the process of recovery and treats mental health disorders at the same time as the addiction itself.
Support and Personalized Attention
Finally, one of the overlooked but important ways to ease withdrawal symptoms during an opiate detox is by offering patients personalized attention and care. Addiction, as well as withdrawal, can feel very isolating. Patients may feel frustrated and alone, and at times they may not be sure whether the pain of detox is worth it. It’s during times like this that support, understanding and motivation can be instrumental to the recovery and positivity of patients.
Opiate withdrawal can be a difficult, but necessary, part of recovering from addiction. Some of the key ways to ease the discomfort of opiate withdrawal can include things like synthetic drugs, individualized care, over-the-counter medications and mental health treatment.