Opiate Withdrawal and Opiate Detox
Addiction to opiates in America is at epidemic proportions, as the crisis has been fueled by legal opiate medication prescriptions in addiction to illicit opiates on the streets. It is the number one substance being abused in America. Many doctors prescribe opiate pain medications, as they have little understanding of the drug’s addictive potential. Consequently, a prescription is not hard to obtain and some individuals addicted to opiate pain pills get them from multiple doctors at the same time so they have their hands on pretty much an unlimited supply. Legal opiate medications include Oxycodone, Oxycontin, Hydrocodone, Morphine, Oxymorphine, Codeine, Percocet, or Vicodin. Fentanyl is a legally prescribed medication but it is also available on the street. Heroin is pretty much a street drug.
Opiates are known as the lion of drugs and individuals abusing opiates repeatedly can become addicted within days, requiring an opiate detox to
come off of them because opiate withdrawal symptoms can be severe when an individual addicted to opiates tries to stop use. The term opiate is derived from opium, which is the raw material for heroin as well as common prescription medications such as Oxycontin, Oxycodone, Percocet, etc.
Codeine, Morphine and Thebaine also contain opium.
There are also synthetic opiates made from chemicals such as Fentanyl or Carfentanyl. These are essentially chemicals that mimic the effect of opiates but are 50 – 100 times more potent than heroin. Carfentanyl, for example, is used to sedate elephants.
Prescription opioid pain medications are legally prescribed by doctors to treat acute pain, especially post-surgical pain or cancer-related pain. These medications are very powerful and addictive and are meant to be used for a short period of time to relieve acute pain. However, that is not always the case, which leads to dependence on these medications. The medical term for opiate addiction is Opiate Use Disorder.
The problem is that these highly addictive medications can be prescribed by any physician and even nurse practitioners also known as APNs. Indeed, over 60% of opioid pain prescriptions are written by primary care physicians and APNs, who usually do not have the expertise to treat the underlying condition.
Consequently, they write prescriptions for opioid pain medications for long periods of time without treating the underlying condition. Over time the patients develop a tolerance for the medication and increased doses are needed to achieve the same effect.
Apart from the negative consequences of addiction to these medications, long term effects of opioid use include brain damage and liver damage. Addiction to these medications can destroy people’s lives – cause them to lose their jobs, destroy their relationships and turn to crime!
Opiate Use Disorder Treatment
Opiate dependence can develop even after just a short period of frequent use. Opiates are powerful drugs and can quickly alter the reward pathways in the brain and create opiate dependence. Opiate withdrawal symptoms are usually very severe making it hard to quit. Acute phase treatment for opiate withdrawal has to address physical distress immediately so that patients can engage in therapeutic treatment to effect changes to their lifestyles.
In order to quit use of these drugs with relative comfort, a heroin detox, or opiate detox under medical monitoring is highly recommended. Fortunately, heroin detox or other opiate detox is very effective in providing relief from withdrawal symptoms and addressing cravings due to the availability of medications such as methadone, buprenorphine, Suboxone, Subutex and ZubSolv. These medications are also helpful in longer-term or maintenance phases of treatment.
If you are looking for help or have questions, you can contact us here!
Coping With Opiate Withdrawal
Opiate withdrawal symptoms can vary for each individual but often include flu-like reactions. Sweating, chills, vomiting and diarrhea, stomach and abdominal cramping are common, and, sometimes, even hallucinations. Individuals may also feel depressed, anxious or angry.
Withdrawal symptoms can set in within a few hours of last use. It depends on the strength of the last hit and the withdrawal precipitated by co-abuse of other addictive substances such as benzodiazepines, alcohol, cocaine or other stimulants.
Withdrawal symptoms are often treated with a replacement drug, such as methadone or buprenorphine, to combat the pain of withdrawal. If a person addicted to opiates does not receive relief from withdrawal symptoms, they may return to opiate use in order to get the relief they need. And, the danger of overdose increases exponentially when a person returns to opioid use after even a short period of abstinence as the body’s tolerance level drops.
Accessing Opiate Detoxification
The opiate detoxification process, where the drugs are flushed out of the system is only a start to treatment and recovery. Addiction is a chronic
disease and the longer the treatment the better the outcomes. Also, addiction is a disease, not a behavioral problem that needs to be punished.
While in some extreme cases inpatient treatment may be needed, treatment should be provided on an outpatient basis so that there is continual integration of the home environment into treatment and out comes are better.
Unfortunately, however, a vast majority of acute phase treatment for opiates, namely opiate detoxification to address opiate withdrawal takes place in an inpatient setting, while it is becoming increasingly clear that outpatient treatment from the outset delivers better outcomes over the long run.
One of the reasons the outpatient treatment is more effective is that health insurance providers authorize longer length of treatment as it saves them money. Dr. Cidambi attributes better outcomes to the ability of patients to apply relapse prevention and coping skills that the patient learned in treatment in their living environments from day one of treatment and the involvement of the family in treatment. It allows the family to fully understand the struggles of staying sober and can better support the individual suffering from addiction.
If you need more information on opiates, addiction or our treatment center and treatment programs, please call or contact us here through our website.