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Opiate Withdrawal

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In regards to the experiences of long-time opiate users and addicts, opiate withdrawals are one of the most arduous and difficult experiences to endure and eventually from which to recover. One needs to be prepared for this. It is not a walk in the park. No amount of medication (besides more opiates) is going to eliminate the painful effects or accelerate recovery time. There are many things that an opiate user experiencing withdrawals can use to ease the process, but the road to breaking addiction is a relentlessly challenging one nonetheless.

Withdrawals usually range from 3-7 days. However, based on length of opiate use, amount of tolerance and strength (both physically and psychologically) of the addiction, and drug half-life, the trailing effects of withdrawals can last as long as 3 weeks to one month, although some opiates (I'm looking at you Methadone and Buprenorphine) acute withdrawals can last as long as a month or two. The first 3-4 days are the most difficult to endure. It's important to remember, however, that it does become steadily easier after that time to see the experience through to inevitable freedom from addiction. What doesn't kill you only makes you stronger, and opiate withdrawals (especially when handled intelligently and treated carefully) are not lethal.

Contents

Brief Introduction

Opium and its derivatives have been greatly demonized through time, as an inscrutable menace to social infrastructure and society as a whole. This demonization was mainly due to the painful withdrawal which could rob a person's entire functionality, and extremely painful physical pain.Opiate withdrawal can also rob a person of its concentration, appetite, enthusiasm etc. causing weight loss, apathy, lethargy and can intensify hearing and sight to a point where their respective perceptions ( e.g. sound and sight ) can turn painful.

Long-time addicts suffer from a wide range of illnesses, experience memory loss and general decrease in health including liver damage, psychosomatic disorders, and even lost fertility.Unfortunately, dependence and addiction tend to form after only a few weeks of use.

While the intensity of these withdrawal effects are not the same for every addict, they are real and constitute serious negative health implications.

Symptoms

Symptoms of opiate withdrawals vary depending on length of habit and strength of tolerance but generally mimic the effects of a severe flu. Such symptoms may include varying levels of runny nose, coughing, sneezing, congestion, headaches, cold chills, sweating, fever, joint pains, and allergy-like reactions.

Some symptoms commonly associated with opiate withdrawal include moderate to severe diarrhea. This is a reaction to the tendency of opiates to cause similar levels of constipation for its users. Restlessness, and/or a general inability to achieve comfort in any static environment (whether it be standing, sitting or laying down) is a common symptom. Actions similar to Restless Leg Syndrome while laying down are also common. Insomnia is another symptom commonly associated with opiate withdrawals. Even after the first few days of heavy withdrawals, signs of insomnia can last for long periods of time after recovering.

As mentioned above, psychological effects of opiate withdrawals last much longer than physical effects and tend to be more subtle in appearance and management. General agitation and easy irritability are common psychological effects, and can last for much longer than the physical as withdrawal process. Mental cravings are also very difficult to handle and can also last an incredibly long time. Once the physical withdrawal is over, recovering addicts can still experience post acute withdrawal symptoms (PAWS). These include anxiety, RLS, insomnia, depression, lethargy and so on.

Treatment

There are many home solutions and treatment plans for opiate withdrawals, each offering temporary relief to the many painful effects of quitting. There is no chemical or substance that provides total and/or permanent relief from the process of quitting. While home solutions often times aid in the withdrawal process and lead to successful recovery from addiction, it's always best to seek medical assistance whenever possible.

Tapering the amount of regularly ingested opiates is strongly encouraged as a part of the quitting process, as it greatly reduces withdrawal symptoms and recovery time. Using a cold-turkey plan also works, but it is obviously extremely more difficult and painful to endure and maintain than tapering.

In both instances, having a partner or friend commit to assisting you in the withdrawal and recovery process is immensely helpful. Not only do they provide moral support, they also reinforce the necessary sense of discipline needed to successfully quit opiate abuse.

Regardless, the following list of aids serve to lower the intensity of opiate withdrawal symptoms.

Common aids

Drugs (OTC):

  • Loperamide - (Imodium) This is a crucial withdrawal aid as it effectively treats diarrhea symptoms and somewhat helps regulate digestion. Also, Loperamide is a synthetic opioid that works to ease the body's need for opiates while not getting the user high (it does not cross the blood-brain barrier).
  • Loratadine - (Claritin) This allergy medicine helps over-all flu symptoms while also acting as a sleep aid.
  • Diphenhydramine - (Benadryl) Works in the same way that Loratadine does, and also helps nausea and restlessness.

(People can have different sensitivities/negative reactions to either allergy medication, and as such should find the right one for them and stick to just that one, or avoid them if it makes things worse.)

  • Naproxen (Aleve) - Helps with headaches and general joint and body pains.
  • Ibuprofen (Advil) - Works to treat the same things as Naproxen.
  • Paracetomol (APAP) - Helps with headaches and general joint and body pains.


Drugs (Prescription): It's very important to note that the following drugs are also habit-forming. While they do provide temporary aid to opiate withdrawals, they can incidentally act as replacement drugs with the possibility of creating new addictions. Handle these with extreme care and restraint.

  • Buprenorphine HCl/naloxone HCI dihydrate (Suboxone) - Semi-synthetic opioid used to treat opiate addiction.
  • Benzodiazepine - Psychoactive drug with anti-anxiety, sedative, hypnotic, anti-convulsant, and muscle relaxant properties, among many others.
  • Zolpidem (Ambien) - Used for treatment of insomnia and some brain disorders.


Other Drugs:

  • GHB - Or it's sister drug GBL; Causes relief of anxiety, stomach cramps, restlessness and higher doses can be used to induce a temporary four hour coma (provided the dose is right it's relatively safe) so there's always the option of knocking yourself out for the duration of your sickness or until you can get yourself hooked up with another opiate. Just watch the interactions with other sedatives, as combining them can be fatal if inexperienced or just plain unlucky. Once your withdrawals have subsided, stop using the GHB as it's addictive in itsself.
  • Alcohol - Causes temporary relief of anxiety, restlessness, discomfort and even insomnia. However, it's important to research Alcohol's interaction warnings with several of the above mentioned chemical substances. Also, the withdrawal process isn't conducive to any additional liver damage inflicted it upon it by excessive drinking.
  • Cannabis - (Herb/Weed/Marijuana/etc.) Causes temporary relief to all symptoms of withdrawal and can even induce significant levels of feelsgoodman. However, not all human beings are receptive to it, and body-chemistry for people that don't enjoy Marijuana can make the withdrawal process worse with increased levels of paranoia and anxiety. Generally speaking, however, it is a valuable asset.
  • Kratom - Causes the same type of high as typical opiates, but contains no morphine and will not contribute to your addiction. Is used to treat opium withdrawal in several countries, and may be one of the best ways to reduce withdrawal symptoms and restore normal functionality. However, do note that kratom is addictive in essentially the same way as other opiates, so care must be taken to avoid falling back into old habits.

Lifestyle

Exercise: Keeping an active lifestyle is very important in reducing the effects of opiate withdrawals. Being static or still amplifies the negative physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms. It also increases the sense of boredom and lethargy that recovering addicts feel now that opiates are missing from the body, while simultaneously increasing their desire to return to using. Introducing a light but disciplined exercise routine to daily life dramatically increases overall health and wellbeing, and also alleviates withdrawal symptoms. Working out also leaves people with natural highs and euphoria that can over time replace the psychological dependency on chemically-induced highs.

Nutrition

  • Magnesium
  • Mineral water, or staying hydrated.
  • Green tea, or any Detox brand tea with euchanatia
  • Garlic
  • Vitamin supplements

In general, a light diet is best, as the stomach is not in a proper state to handle heavy food while undergoing withdrawals. Several types of soups work well to kill hunger while not aggravating the stomach or bowels. Many type of hot tea provide temporary relief of joint pain and discomfort. Eating large quantities of garlic has been reported to work well against alleviating withdrawal symptoms. Vitamin supplements and over-the-counter head and body ache pills (avoid caffeine with headache-specific drugs) work to cause temporary relief to pain. All of the above treat the body in the same way as it would a person suffering from the flu.

Other Things to Remember

Reiterating what was mentioned above, it's important to remember that length of use and strength of tolerance play big hands in how long the withdrawal process lasts and how much it hurts. For users coming off opiates after years of abuse and tolerance build up, the body takes that much longer to rid itself of the dependence on the alkaloids that once circulated throughout. Once the body becomes so accustomed to having opiates in the system, it will always have a sort of "memory" of that dependency if opiates are ever re-administered after recovering from withdrawals.

In other words, the longer a person was addicted to opiates before they quit, the less amount of time it takes for the body to undergo similar withdrawal reactions the next time they administer opiates into their system. Once you've become an addict, any multiple day use of opiates after a long term cessation will cause withdrawals, although not nearly as intense as a regular habit. Once the brain of an addict receives the opioids in its receptors, it instantly shuts down production of endogenous endorphins.

Related Links

CaptainChemistry's Compleet Opioid Withdrawal Guide

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