Steps to Overcoming Opiate Withdrawal

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Acute opiate withdrawal can be very difficult to endure. According to the NLM, “When a person stops taking the drugs, the body needs time to recover, and withdrawal symptoms result.” Whenever a person becomes dependent on opiate drugs, they will experience some level of withdrawal, but that doesn’t mean they cannot find ways to make it more bearable. Read on for the steps to overcoming opiate withdrawal in the safest and least painful way possible.

Step One: Understand the Symptoms Before Stopping Your Drug Use.

Going through the opiate withdrawal syndrome will not be easy, even if you receive help and professional treatment. It is important that you know the symptoms so you can be prepared when they start to manifest. These symptoms include:

opiate withdrawal

Early symptoms of opiate withdrawal include agitation and anxiety.

  • Agitation
  • Eyes tearing up
  • Runny nose
  • Sweating
  • Yawning
  • Muscle aches
  • Joint and bone pain
  • Anxiety
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Chills/hot flashes
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Dilated pupils

The beginning of the syndrome will feel quite similar to the flu while the later symptoms will often include lingering diarrhea, vomiting, and chills.

Step Two: Attend Professional Detox Treatment.

At a detox center, you will receive professional treatment from clinicians. Often, you will be given medication to reduce the severity of your symptoms. The medications that are most often used for this purpose are

  • Methadone
    • A synthetic opioid which, when taken in the right doses, minimizes withdrawal without causing intoxication
  • Buprenorphine
    • A partial opioid agonist that can be administered to someone who “has abstained from using opioids for 12-24 hours and is in the early stages of opioid withdrawal” (SAMHSA)
  • Clonidine
    • An antihypertensive drug that treats some of the more painful and uncomfortable symptoms of withdrawal

You may also receive behavioral therapy during this time, especially if you have been abusing opiate drugs. However, some individuals choose not to attend detox and go through the symptoms of withdrawal on their own. This can become hard on the person, especially if they were addicted to the drugs, and professional treatment is often recommended for safer and less painful withdrawal.

Step Three: Take It Easy.

It is very important during this time that you do not try to continue all your normal activities and give yourself a break when it comes to work, school, and other obligations. Opiate withdrawal is like having a bad case of the flu which is why you will need plenty of rest as well as liquids to prevent you from becoming dehydrated. If you attend detox, the clinicians will give you this information, but without it, you must remember to care for yourself.

If you decide to go back to your busy schedule immediately after seeing the withdrawal symptoms die down, you may start to experience them all over again due to stress or other issues. Give yourself time to fully recover from your withdrawal before returning to work, school, and other responsibilities.

After overcoming opiate withdrawal, it is paramount that you continue into addiction treatment if you need it. According to the NIDA, medical detoxification can be necessary to a person’s withdrawal and addiction recovery; however, it “is only the first stage of addiction treatment.


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