An opiate is an analgesic depressant drug produced from a morphine derivative of the opium of a poppy plant. The three main morphine derivative opiates are codeine, morphine, and heroin. Most painkillers are synthetic opiates (opioids), and they include such drugs as:
Opiates are narcotic painkillers prescribed by doctors and physicians to help manage pain. While most are effective in managing pain when taken responsibly, misusing opiates can cause physical and emotional addiction that results in unmanageability in life and excruciating withdrawal symptoms.
Opiate Withdrawal Symptoms
Opiate withdrawal symptoms develop after stopping or drastically decreasing one’s use of opiates. Addicts develop a strong physical and emotional dependence on opiates and need to continue the use of opiates to prevent the withdrawal symptoms from occurring.
Over time an addict will need to increase the amount of opiates he or she takes in order to achieve the same effects from the drug. For any opiate addict, withdrawal symptoms can begin as soon as 12 hours after the last dose, and the symptoms (referred to as dope sick) have a unique onset. The most notable early sign of opiate withdrawal is frequent yawning, having no connection to fatigue of any kind. This symptom is a nervous system response, and most opiate addicts who have experienced withdrawal before become frantic over the impending full withdrawal. After the yawning starts, an opiate addict can be assured that he or she will feel the effects of a full withdrawal within the coming 3-4 hours (depending on the individual) if more opiates are not taken. Some of the symptoms of full opiate withdrawal are:
- High fever
- Intense cravings
- Muscle pain and spasms
- Abdominal pain
- Cold sweats
- Suicidal ideations
Any one of these symptoms alone can be grueling and prompt a strong desire to use opiates again just to relieve the symptoms. When trapped in an addiction, individuals experiencing withdrawal symptoms often feel that more opiates are the only way to endure being dope sick. However, in a medically supervised detox facility, there are several ways in which the pain and discomfort of opiate withdrawal can be reduced and managed for a more comfortable detox process.
Managing Opiate Withdrawal Symptoms
Opiate detox can take anywhere from 2 -21 days, depending on the severity of the addiction and the method of detox used. There are three main types of methods for opiate detox, and they vary to be individualized based on the addict and his or her needs and preferences.
Replacement Therapy Opiate Detox
While there are many medications that can be administered by the medical staff to ease the symptoms of withdrawal, some detox facilities may utilize a process termed replacement therapy. Replacement therapy is the use of a “less addictive” opiate to fill the opiate receptors in the brain without providing the dopamine rush that results in addictive euphoria. Any medication of this kind is always given by medical staff and carefully controlled and monitored. The two most common medications used in replacement therapy are;
- Methadone – Methadone is just as addictive as any other opiate; however, it has a long half-life (up to 72 hours), and is commonly given to opiate addicts in small doses for its long length of action in the brain. This process helps to stave off severe withdrawal symptoms, and the addict is slowly weaned off methadone throughout the detox process until the body is clear of all opiates.
- Suboxone – Suboxone has been proven to be highly effective in treating patients with an opiate addiction. Containing the opiate antagonist, Nalrexone, Suboxone has a 72 hour length of action and works on two levels:
- The opioid characteristics bind to the opiate receptors in the brain, preventing severe withdrawal symptoms.
- The Naltrexone blocks the opiates from producing euphoric effects for the user, thereby creating a ceiling effect.
Like Methadone, Suboxone is slowly tapered until all opiates are cleared from the body.
Replacement therapy during detox can be highly effective, depending on the individual and his or her needs and preferences. Because this process requires a slow tapering of the replacement opiates, it can take up to 21 days to complete.
Traditional Opiate Detox
Traditional opiate detox allows the withdrawal from the drugs to happen naturally without the administration of additional opiates. However, this is not a purely “cold-turkey” method, as sedatives and blood pressure medications can be given to manage the severe symptoms like anxiety and insomnia. The goal of any detox method is to remove all traces of opiates from the body of an addict, but this method incorporates additional medication to facilitate sleep and reduce anxiety, which can be severe in some cases. Generally, traditional opiate detox lasts from 5-14 days, depending on the individual and his or her circumstance.
Rapid Opiate Detox
This form of opiate detox is a medical process in which the addict is placed under general anesthesia and given an opiate antagonist that produces immediate withdrawal. Because there is no progression of withdrawal symptoms in this process, anesthesia is necessary, as it can be jarring for any individual to consciously experience sudden and full opiate withdrawal. Always performed in a hospital setting, rapid opiate detox is complete within 48 hours with the individual under constant monitoring and supervision to ensure safety and avoid any medical complications.
One of the most common concerns after opiate detox is staying sober and preventing relapse. An overwhelming percentage of opiate addicts relapse after detox has been completed, and there may be several contributing factors for this, some of which are apparent, and others that may be lingering beneath the surface.
Detox Alone is Not Enough
The only way in which an individual can become addicted to opiates to the point at which he or she needs detox is if their use has become a regular part of his/her daily life. If an opiate addict is to stay sober after detox, he or she needs to relearn how to live life on a daily, even hourly basis without using these drugs.
In order to accomplish this, routines and habits must change, along with people, places, and things that are triggers for relapse. In many cases, making these changes on one’s own, without guidance and some level of therapy, is virtually impossible. The difficulty is not in an individual’s desire to stay sober, but rather in not having the knowledge of how to stay sober.
This knowledge is something that addiction treatment professionals are trained to impart, and it is crucial for the sustained sobriety of any opiate addict.
Emotional Relapse Prevention
Most addicts suffer from some form of trauma or internal pain that has likely been a silent contributor to their addiction and destructive behaviors. Without being able to recognize these issues and address them, the risk of relapse is drastically increased, and can be only one stressful day away. Some of the most common causes of an addict’s internal suffering are:
- Low self-esteem
- Contentious or broken relationship(s)
- Severe grief over a loss
- Guilt from unresolved transgression against another or oneself
- Co-occurring mental health disorders (dual-diagnosis – mental health disorder + addiction)
- Serious injury or surgery
It is vitally important to address any underlying issues within oneself before returning to a home environment, as there are triggers and reminders of various traumas around every corner. Once personal issues are addressed, the next vital step is to learn how to control emotions associated with these issues, and this is defined as coping skills. Coping skills are what every individual must have to manage stress, trauma, loss, guilt, disappointment, and victory. Especially for recovering addicts, it is imperative to understand one’s feelings and express them in a healthy and manageable way, so as to avoid becoming overwhelmed and returning to opiates in an attempt to dull the pain.
Identify the Triggers for Opiate Relapse
Each recovering addict has his or her own set of personal triggers for relapse. A trigger is a person, place, or thing that acts as a reminder to the addict of his or her addiction. Some examples of triggers may be:
- People with whom the addict used opiates
- Medical offices, street corners, and/or homes where the addict used to obtain his or her opiates
- Routines that previously involved opiate use
- Routes to and from home that pass by places familiar to the addict during his or her opiate addiction
- Pieces of furniture or articles of clothing that may represent opiate use
Personal triggers can be anything that remind an addict of his or her opiate abuse, and often linger on their minds, drawing them ever closer to a relapse. It is for this reason, many addiction treatment professionals stand by the claim that a recovering addict must change and/or avoid all people, places, and things associated with his/her addiction to the greatest extent possible.
Techniques to Help Prevent a Relapse
Regardless of the time an addict may have in sobriety, there are always ups and downs in life, and any addict must have the resources that he or she can employ throughout life in order to prevent relapse. Many of the techniques addicts can utilize may save their life, and should not be taken for granted.
- Support groups and individuals supportive of recovery are vital when times get hard. Everyone needs someone with whom they feel they can relate, and for addicts, there is tremendous relief in a support group or person who can be a constant representation of the fact that they are not alone.
- Activities and hobbies that are healthy and conducive to recovery can be great distracters and preventers from relapse. These activities can keep a recovering addict distracted, and prevent boredom, which is among the most common conditions leading to relapse.
- Asking for help is the most overlooked resource a recovering addict has in his or her arsenal for maintaining sobriety. Sometimes, the answer is not apparent, and difference between sobriety and a return to addiction can be a simple request for help.
- Utilize the coping and survival skills developed in addiction treatment. The entire purpose of addiction treatment is to provide the tools and knowledge to empower addicts to prevent relapse, with the same fervor and devotion as they once possessed to sustain their addiction.
- Continue with individual therapy no matter what one may have accomplished in addiction treatment. Therapy is an effective outlet and safe place in which an addict can express his or her feelings to prevent becoming overwhelmed and at higher risk for relapse.
Opiate Addiction Recovery
Opiate addiction is dangerous, and for each day that an addict does not receive the help he or she desperately needs, the addiction get worse, and more deadly. Addiction needlessly claims thousands of lives every year, but it does not need to turn you, or your addicted loved one into another tragic statistic. Opiate addiction can be treated, and recovery is possible.
If you, or your loved one are suffering from an addiction to opiates, please call us now at 1-866-282-8730 to speak with one of our trained counselors. At A Forever Recovery, we ensure every individual is provided whatever time he or she needs to heal from opiate addiction after detox. We’ve removed time constraints, and no individual is limited in the time he or she has to get the most from our diversified and individualized treatment programs.
Please don’t wait another day. We can get you, or your addicted loved on into detox and treatment right away, as there is no time to spare. Call us now, and reclaim health and happiness for yourself and your loved ones.