While there are many different types of drugs that someone can become addicted to, opioids are among the most commonly used. Because opioids can be obtained in the form of a prescription pain reliever, it’s common for people to take a higher dose than they were prescribed, which increases the likelihood of a substance use disorder. In 2019 alone, more than 10 million people above the age of 12 misused opioids. Even though you can obtain a prescription for opioids, it’s important to understand that all opioids are considered potent drugs that can easily be misused. It’s rather crucial to seek treatment immediately if you believe that you have developed a substance use disorder.
What Are Opioids?
Opioids refer to a specific drug class wherein the drugs are derived from the opium poppy plant. When consumed, this kind of drug reacts with the brain to produce a range of different effects. How you feel after taking an opioid depends on the amount you take. If the dose is relatively small and used through a prescription medication, the main effect involves pain relief.
Because opioids are able to block pain signals, many people who take large doses feel more relaxed and happy after taking the drug. These feelings increase the likelihood that the individual will continue misusing the drug in question. Along with prescription opioids, the most common opioids include heroin and fentanyl, the latter of which is considered to be upwards of 100 times stronger than morphine.
What Does Opioid Withdrawal Entail?
Opioid withdrawal may occur if you stop taking them altogether. However, withdrawal symptoms will only take place if your body has become dependent on an opioid. Anyone who has developed a substance use disorder will likely go through an opioid withdrawal if they attempt to quit. The effects of withdrawal differ from person to person. The severity of the effects depends on the severity of the substance use disorder as well as the exact drug that you were misusing.
Once some of the neurons within your brain have been altered by the opioids you take, these same neurons won’t be able to work properly if you stop taking the drug altogether. As such, it’s important that you go through the medical detoxification process. During detox, you will receive medical assistance to ensure that the withdrawal symptoms are minimized while the drug leaves your body. Keep in mind that your body can become dependent on opioids before a substance use disorder has fully developed.
Primary Opioid Withdrawal Symptoms
The symptoms associated with opioid withdrawal can differ in severity. Some of the more common symptoms that you could experience include:
• Muscle aches
• Watery eyes
• Runny nose
• Dilated pupils
• Rapid breathing
• Quick heartbeat
• High blood pressure
No matter which of these symptoms you experience, you should consider seeking medical treatment if your symptoms worsen. Withdrawal symptoms should start to show up around 12 hours following your last dose. Because opioids are potent at relieving pain and making a person feel relaxed, the withdrawal symptoms they experience could push them to take the drug again. The intense cravings that a person feels after stopping their opioid use increase the likelihood of a relapse. As touched upon previously, the severity of the symptoms depends on several factors, which include:
• How healthy the individual is
• How long they’ve been taking the drug
• How long the drugs remain in the person’s body
• If they quit instantly or use other medications to help them quit
Average Opioid Withdrawal Timeline
The opioid withdrawal timeline depends on what your detox program is like. In many cases, the symptoms will last for a period of 3-14 days. The symptoms are typically at their most severe in the first few days, after which they should wane. If you enter a drug detox program, you may receive small doses of medications that are designed to keep withdrawal symptoms at bay and help you progress through treatment without issue.
While the withdrawal symptoms when you stop taking opioids can be serious, there shouldn’t be too many complications. However, the withdrawal effects you go through could be more severe if you are currently experiencing other health problems. If you have recently developed a heart condition of some kind, withdrawal effects like high blood pressure or a high pulse could create severe complications. Some additional complications that you should be on the lookout for include:
• Leaking amniotic fluid or bleeding for pregnant women
• Dehydration as a result of diarrhea and vomiting
• Increased blood sodium levels, which is referred to as hypernatremia
• Higher risk of an overdose
When looking specifically at your risk of overdosing, your tolerance for opioids will invariably be lower after the withdrawal process begins. As such, you risk overdosing on opioids if you relapse and take opioids again. The signs of an opioid overdose are serious and can include:
• Pinpoint pupils
• Being unable to talk even when awake
• Blue skin, lips, and fingernails
• A gurgling noise or choking sounds
• A slow or erratic pulse
• A clammy or pale face
In the event that you or someone close to you experiences any of these overdose signs, it’s important that you seek medical attention immediately. Quick treatment by emergency medical technicians should significantly reduce the possibility of death.
How an Opioid Withdrawal Is Diagnosed
Before you can seek treatment for an opioid withdrawal, it must be diagnosed by a doctor. Diagnosing an opioid withdrawal is relatively straightforward as long as you’re honest about how much you’ve been using. Along with looking for any withdrawal symptoms, your doctor should perform a simple physical exam. In accordance with the American Psychiatric Association, there are four criteria that must be met before a withdrawal can be diagnosed. These criteria include:
• The symptoms are creating serious issues with your everyday life
• You experience at least three withdrawal symptoms in a matter of minutes or days
• You have stopped taking opioids heavily for a few weeks
• Your symptoms aren’t developing as a result of another mental disorder or medical condition
Along with diagnosing your withdrawal, your doctor should also be able to identify the severity of your withdrawal symptoms, which can be helpful when deciding what the best treatment option is.
Treatment Solutions for Opioid Withdrawal
There is a range of treatment solutions available for people who are suffering from opioid withdrawal, the primary of which is medical detox. The medical detoxification process almost always takes place as the first step of a drug rehab program. The goal of the detoxification process is to ensure that the toxins from the drug are safely removed from your body. During this process, you will likely be provided with very small doses of medication to help manage your withdrawal symptoms.
It’s very likely that medical professionals will be on hand 24/7 to make sure that none of your side effects are too severe. The medical detox process can last anywhere from a few days to a couple of weeks. Once the drug has been removed from your body and all of the withdrawal symptoms have dissipated, you can begin the next stages of treatment, which are provided through an outpatient or inpatient treatment program.
If you enroll in an outpatient treatment program, you will be able to sleep in your own home and go to work/school while attending treatment. The main benefit of this form of treatment is that your everyday life won’t be significantly altered. On the other hand, you may still have easy access to the drugs that brought about your substance use disorder, which could make you more likely to relapse. The types of treatments that are available during outpatient treatment usually include group therapy, individual counseling, behavioral therapy, and family therapy.
You could also choose to enter an inpatient rehab program, which involves a stay in a residential facility on a 24/7 basis. These programs can last anywhere from one month to upwards of one year. During this kind of treatment program, you’ll be provided with all of the same treatments that are available in an outpatient treatment program. You will also be among other people who are going through the same issues as you, which may allow you to cultivate a strong support system. Another notable aspect of inpatient rehab is that you will be in a drug-free environment, which means that relapsing is easy to avoid during treatment.
Opioid Treatment at First City Recovery Center
Once you have admitted that you suffer from a substance use disorder with opioids, you can enter a treatment facility. At First City Recovery Center in Kokomo, Indiana, we offer a variety of customizable treatment services that can be personalized to fulfill your exact needs. Our primary treatment programs include outpatient treatment and holistic treatment. The outpatient treatment options we provide are separated into three categories, which include a partial hospitalization program, day programs, and intensive outpatient programs.
The holistic treatment program available at First Recovery Center focuses on both the mind and body while treatment is ongoing. This approach is designed to tend to the mental health and physical needs that each patient has. Some of the treatments that are administered in this program include massage therapy, yoga, acupuncture, and meditation. All treatment programs available at First Recovery Center can accommodate a dual diagnosis, which occurs when the patient is experiencing a substance use disorder as well as another mental health disorder. The common mental health problems that can be treated at our facility include:
• Borderline personality disorder
• Bipolar disorder
• Anxiety disorder
• Post-traumatic stress disorder
Group therapy and individual therapy are also available to all patients. During group therapy, many patients will receive a “buddy” who can mentor them throughout treatment. Patients who attend group therapy will discuss their problems and any feelings they’re having as they continue on their path towards recovery.
As for individual therapy, this kind of session is necessary to help the affected individual understand more about their substance use disorder and why they are struggling with it. Many individual therapy sessions focus on developing healthy coping strategies. Once the patient completes their treatment at First Recovery Center, the coping strategies they learn can help them avoid relapsing.
If you’ve started to misuse opioids and believe that you may be suffering from a substance use disorder, it’s highly recommended that you obtain treatment before the disorder worsens. The health and life complications that come with a substance use disorder tend to become more advanced as time goes on. Once you admit that you have a problem and that treatment is necessary to help you manage your cravings, you can get the help you need. When you enter the right program, you’ll be provided with the tools you require to remove opioids from your life once and for all.