Opiates do not cause life-threatening withdrawal effects. Although the symptoms of the opioid withdrawal syndrome can be incredibly uncomfortable, they seldom become complicated or dangerous. However, it is still important to seek professional treatment for opiate withdrawal for many reasons, the greatest of which is that dependence on these drugs is often is an indicator of abuse and addiction, which must also be treated medically.
Many People Choose to Withdraw from Opiates Without Medical Assistance
It is not the safest choice to do so, but many people do choose to gradually minimize their dependence on opioids by tapering the drug on their own and without a health professional’s assistance. In addition, other individuals decide to stop taking the drugs altogether when attempting to withdraw, a method called going “cold turkey” which, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, was coined based on the goose bumps and chills these individuals experience.
Many individuals make this choice because they either feel that they do not need medical assistance for their withdrawal syndrome or because they do not believe they can afford medical help. This is untrue, as many treatment options exist that are low-cost for patients with financial problems, and even though opioid withdrawal isn’t usually dangerous, it can become more so if it is not properly treated.
Opiate Withdrawal is Painful––and Can Cause Relapse
Though not fatal, the symptoms caused by opioid withdrawal are often so intense, painful, and uncomfortable that many individuals who attempt to stop abusing opioids return to drug abuse to end their symptoms. This can be incredibly dangerous, as it perpetuates the cycle of abuse and can possibly become deadly.
As stated by the National Library of Medicine, “The biggest complication [with the treatment of opioid withdrawal] is return to drug use. Most opiate overdose deaths occur in persons who have just withdrawn or detoxed.” This is because a person’s tolerance diminishes while they are attempting to withdraw, causing them to be more likely to overdose if they relapse back to drug abuse.
In medically assisted withdrawal treatment, patients are given medication that treats and minimizes their symptoms, decreasing the intensity of the syndrome and making them less likely to return to drug abuse. According to the NIDA, “medications offer help in suppressing withdrawal symptoms during detoxification,” greatly decreasing the possibility of a person returning to opioid abuse because of the intensity of their withdrawal symptoms.
Medically Assisted Withdrawal Opens the Door to Addiction Treatment
Many individuals also are in danger of relapse after their withdrawal symptoms begin to subside because they did not receive the treatment necessary for their addiction to opioids. It is important to note that “medically assisted detoxification is not in itself ‘treatment’––it is only the first step in the treatment process,” and many individuals do not realize this if they don’t receive medical help for their withdrawal symptoms. Someone who withdraws from opioids is no longer dependent on them but may still be addicted to them. This is why addiction treatment is a necessary follow-up to detox, something the medical staff that cares for detox patients fully understands.
Therefore, if you attend withdrawal treatment, you will be more likely to receive the further treatments you require and less likely to relapse. As stated previously, this is necessary, not only because relapse is an issue but because tolerances diminish after and during withdrawal, leading those who do relapse to a stronger likelihood of overdose.
Medication Must Be Prescribed by a Doctor
Some individuals do attempt to taper off the amount of opioid drugs they are using or abusing in order to experience less intense withdrawal symptoms and to avoid professional help. This is also very unsafe. Opioids can only be safely prescribed by a doctor, and no one should change their prescription amount without discussing it with their physician. For individuals who are already abusing these drugs, it is dangerous to attempt to taper off the amount themselves, as this can possibly cause relapse as well.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration states, “Management of [opiate] withdrawal without medications can produce needless suffering in a population that tends to have limited tolerance for physical pain.” The only way to safely––and legally––take opioids is through a doctor’s care so it is very important for those attempting to treat their opioid withdrawal by tapering off their dosage amount or taking a medication such as buprenorphine or methadone to only do so through with physician’s prescription.
Should I Seek Professional Treatment for Opiate Withdrawal?
By all accounts, yes. It is much safer and more beneficial to the patient to seek help during the difficult time of opioid withdrawal. Even if you have financial issues or other problems with seeking treatment, it can be assured that it will be much safer to do so and that you can find help at a treatment center, doctor’s office, or another type of professional healthcare option where you can receive the type of treatment you need.
The only question is what type of treatment you should attend for opiate withdrawal. Generally, you can go by a few rules, but every individual is different.
- Most people undergoing opiate withdrawal do well in outpatient care. Afterwards, the healthcare professionals who treated you can help you find addiction treatment if necessary.
- If you are experiencing mental or physical issues associated with your drug abuse that cause you to require intensive care, if you do not have a strong support system at home, or if you are struggling with a severe addiction to opioids, you may want to consider inpatient or residential treatment.
- If you are not addicted to or abusing opioids and have only become dependent on them through prescribed treatment, it is important to speak to your physician about the best way to diminish your dependence on the medication. Likely, you will be slowly tapered off the drug under your doctor’s care.
Do You Want to Seek Treatment for Opiate Withdrawal?
Call 800-584-3274 today, and we can help you find rehab centers near you or answer any questions you may have regarding opiate withdrawal and its treatment.