Opiate drugs like Demerol, Oxycontin and heroin easily attach to the body’s own opioid receptor cells. Once attached, opiates block or muffle pain signals sent to the brain. According to the Tennessee Institute for Substance Abuse Treatment Evaluation, this process works to depress central nervous system functions throughout the body.
Stopping or reducing opiate intake amounts brings on a range of opiate withdrawal symptoms that can cause considerable discomfort. Most people will experience the same types of opiate withdrawal symptoms over a two to four week period.
Here are the five most common opiate withdrawal symptoms along with some helpful ways to ease the withdrawal process.
1. Aches & Pains
Chronic opiate use impairs the brain’s ability to regulate pain signaling throughout the body. Consequently, opiate withdrawal symptoms involving aches and pains are to be expected. The pain experienced will be considerably worse than usual sense brain chemical levels have yet to return to normal.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), such as naproxen and ibuprofen can go a long way towards helping relieve aches and pains. When using both naproxen and ibuprofen together, be careful not to exceed the maximum recommended dosage for NSAID drugs.
2. Restless Legs Syndrome
While restless legs syndrome (RLS) exists as its own separate condition, it’s nonetheless a commonly experienced opiate withdrawal symptom. RLS can feel like creepy-crawly sensations up and down the legs causing irresistible urges to move the legs. RLS symptoms occur at nighttime when a person sleeps, which makes it difficult to sleep soundly.
Wrapping the legs in a tension bandage can help relieve creepy-crawly sensations and reduce restlessness through night. A pair of pantyhose or compression stocking might also do the trick. For some people an ice pack may also work, while others may see better results with a hot pad.
Since chronic opiate use disrupts central nervous system processes, bouts of diarrhea are likely during the detox stage. As one of the more uncomfortable opiate withdrawal symptom, alleviating diarrhea symptoms can provide considerable relief during the withdrawal period.
Immodium AD does a good job at supporting the digestive system and allowing firm stools to form. Since the digestive tract has grown use to strong opiate narcotic effects, most people require a double dose of Immodium AD to see good results.
4. Anxiety, Chills & Sweating
As brain chemical processes play a central role in regulating the body’s sympathetic nervous system, long-term opiate use easily disrupts body temperature levels as well as a person’s emotional state. This means opiate withdrawal symptoms involving anxiety, chills and sweating will likely develop during the detox period.
Clonidine, commonly used as a blood pressure medication, can also be used to relieve symptoms arising from sympathetic nervous system imbalances. Clonidine does require a doctor’s prescription.
While feelings of depression may appear at the start of a detox period, they become more so pronounced later on. Out of all the opiate withdrawal symptoms, depression is the one most likely to drive a person back to drugs.
Staying active and busy can help keep depression symptoms at bay. Making it a point to get out of the house at least once every day can also help. Watching funny movies and reading funny books can also help relieve feelings of depression.