Opioid Withdrawal Symptoms and Treatment
Opioid addiction and overdose have steadily increased in the last 10 years, due to the easier access to prescription meds containing the drugs. Those struggling with opioid addiction are no longer only heroin addicts, with many new users becoming addicted to the drug after receiving prescription pain killers from a physician. In fact, opioid addiction has become so commonplace, it is estimated that one-third of Americans know someone who is currently or was at one time addicted to opioids. Research indicates that nearly two million people in the United States are currently struggling with opioid addiction and each year the number of overdoses continues to climb.
Making the decision to quit can be a positive life change for those struggling with opioid addiction and their loved ones. But for many, the idea of change can be scary, especially if they don’t know what to expect on their journey to recovery. Understanding the symptoms of withdrawal from opioids and treatment options can help put the minds of those looking for recovery options at ease. Here is a quick guide to what to expect during opioid withdrawal and opioid addiction treatment options available.
What to Expect During Withdrawal from Opioids
The onset of symptoms from opioid withdrawal typically begins to occur within the first 12 hours after last use for short-acting opioids (such as heroin and hydrocodone) and within 30 hours of last use for those opioids which are longer lasting (such as methadone). Symptoms may be mild or severe depending on the level of dependency an individual is in. Individuals in the early stages of withdrawal may experience tearing of the eyes and muscle aches. Heart palpitations and blood pressure spikes are also common. Individuals in withdrawal may notice that their nose is runny, they can’t control their yawning and they have difficulty falling asleep and remaining asleep. They may also have a fever and begin to sweat profusely. Mental health may begin to falter as agitation and anxiety sets in.
The initial symptoms of withdrawal typically peak within three days of symptom onset, after which they begin to decline. During day three to day seven, new symptoms may begin to emerge. Individuals may experience gastrointestinal issues such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach cramping. Depression is also common during this stage. And while the physical need for the drug may begin to wane with each day that passes, a psychological craving for opioids may begin to emerge.
Opioid Addiction Treatment Options
Treatment for opioid addiction generally comes in stages.
Stage 1: Detox
Detox involves the body purging the remaining opioids from the body. For a more successful recovery, medical detox, which involves the use of medication-assisted therapy and professional supervision during the detoxification process, is strongly encouraged, especially for those who are highly dependent on opioids.
Medication-assisted therapy involves the use of medication to combat withdrawal symptoms increase the chance that the individual will continue toward recovery. Most medication-assisted therapy involves using buprenorphine, a combination drug which includes a low dose opioid and a medication which binds to the opioid receptors in the brain blocking the high that the user would generally receive from the low dose opioid. Working in tandem, the medication relieves withdrawal symptoms while slowly tapering the user from opioids.
Another form of detox is an abrupt cessation of opioids or “cold turkey”. This involves allowing the body to purge the opioids without medical intervention. This form of detox is not recommended as withdrawal symptoms can be severe and lead individuals to use again to relieve the symptoms.
Stage 2: Intensive Outpatient Care or Residential Treatment
Depending on an individuals level of dependency they may need residential treatment or intensive outpatient care. Those needing residential care will live at a rehabilitation facility while receiving 24/7 care and support from skilled professionals. Residential services can include medication management (for both physical and psychological symptoms) one on one and group counseling, and behavior modification. Individuals engaged in residential treatment generally stay in the program for 30 to 90 days depending on their level of need.
Intensive outpatient care is available for those who are interested in recovery but do not want or do not need 24/7 supervision during their journey. IOP is ideal for those individuals who want to maintain their work and family life during their recovery process. Individuals who participate in IOP have access to skilled professionals knowledgable about the recovery process. Treatment during IOP typically includes medication management, as well as intensive one on one and group therapy sessions designed to help participants gain new skills for coping with barriers and upsets and modify their behavior to fit their new life in recovery.
Stage 3: Maintenance
After the intensive aspect of treatment has concluded, those in recovery generally enter a stage of maintenance. For those using medications to help slowly withdraw from their drug of choice, this may mean the tapering of their medication-assisted therapy under medical supervision. After completing residential or IOP, those in recovery will need to maintain their progress by continuing to access support. This can be through community meetings or continued one on one or group counseling sessions. The maintenance period is important as the person who is new to recovery becomes reacclimated to the world around them. As challenges arise, they will lean on their newly found support system to help them navigate the barriers life presents without falling back into substance abuse.
Deciding to quit using opioids is a difficult one. Thankfully there are many treatment options available that can fit the needs of most people struggling with opioid addiction. If you or someone you know needs help conquering opioid addiction, contact us today.