According to SAMHSA, “Opioids are highly addicting, and their chronic use leads to withdrawal symptoms that, although not medically dangerous, can be highly unpleasant and produce intense discomfort.” Consider these top ten tips for coping with opiate withdrawal before you decide to discontinue your opiate use.
1. Call Out of Work or School
Take a week at least away from work and/or school. Your body is going to be in a lot of pain, and you are going to be exhausted. If you can, it is extremely important and beneficial that you scale back on your responsibilities during this time. Withdrawal can be hard enough without the other aspects of your life causing you to go at full steam which will only make it harder.
2. Stay with a Friend or Family Member
Especially if you live alone, it can be necessary during this time that you stay with someone who can help care for you and show you love and support. It can become extremely difficult during opioid withdrawal to stay away from drugs, and some individuals even turn back to them because of the intense dysphoria they can often feel.
3. Get Checked for Depression
The NLM states, “Those withdrawing from opiates should be checked for depression and other mental illnesses.” It will make it much easier for you going forward into opioid addiction treatment and the like to know whether or not you need treatment for co-occurring disorders and if any of these could have influenced or are influenced by your drug abuse. Also “antidepressant medications should not be withheld under the assumption that the depression is only related to withdrawal” so if your depressive symptoms are extremely strong, you may be prescribed antidepressants as treatment.
4. Be Kind to Yourself
You won’t get through withdrawal all in one day. In fact, you may even experience setbacks on certain days. That’s okay. Opioid withdrawal can take as long as a week and half, and it is trying both mentally and physically. Being kind to yourself during this time and realizing how important it is that you’ve decided to stop taking opioids to better your situation is essential to coping with opioid withdrawal. You will experience a much easier time with your symptoms if you remember to be nice to yourself and allow yourself to take things one day at a time.
5. Drink Lots of Fluids
There is a tendency for individuals going through opioid withdrawal to experience dehydration. Because vomiting, decreased appetite, and diarrhea are all common symptoms during the withdrawal syndrome, you may want to monitor yourself and make sure that you are hydrated. Drinking juices, teas, and especially water is a good way to take care of yourself and make sure that you don’t become even more unwell during this time. While water is the best way to keep hydrated, try calming or sleepy teas in order to feel more relaxed and help combat insomnia and anxiety.
6. Keep a Journal
Keeping a record of what you are going through can be important and especially helpful in allowing you to cope, even if no one (including you) ever reads it afterward. Journaling helps get feelings of frustration and anger out on the page so that you do not keep them bottled up. These feelings will be likely when you are attempting to stop using opioids for good. Journaling also helps with your timeline; you can turn back to earlier entries and realize how far you’ve come through your difficult time of opioid withdrawal.
7. Taper Your Opioid Drugs
If possible, it can be so much easier to cope with opioid withdrawal if you take the remaining drugs that you have and slowly taper them off, taking fewer as your withdrawal progresses. This can make the process take longer (depending on how much of the drug you have left), but it can also make it much less painful and intense. The VA lists suggested tapers for methadone, morphine, and oxycodone, but states, “In general, the longer the patient has been on opioids, the slower the taper should be.”
8. Talk to Your Doctor
Talking to your doctor about you opioid withdrawal can be extremely helpful in many ways and make it much easier to cope. Your doctor can prescribe you medication (such as buprenorphine or clonidine) to make the withdrawal symptoms less intense, refer you to a detox or addiction clinic, or even tell you about the safe over-the-counter medications you can take. While many individuals hesitate to discuss their opioid withdrawal with their doctors (believing that they can get through it on their own), it makes it much easier to cope when you take the advice given to you by a trained physician.
9. Attend a Rehab or Detox Clinic
Many individuals also choose not to attend a clinic, but if your opioid withdrawal is bad enough, you should consider it. Attending a rehab or detox clinic will help make your withdrawal symptoms shorter, less intense, and much less painful. It is important to remember that detox is not a treatment for addiction, but it can make it much easier to cope with withdrawal. In many cases, detox centers will refer you to full addiction treatment or rehab centers after your withdrawal has ended if you are, in fact, addicted to opioids.
10. Surround Yourself with Positivity
The pain of opioid withdrawal can sometimes make it feel impossible to bear, and the anxiety, depression, and agitation it also causes do not help. That is why it is important to surround yourself with positivity: positive friends, positive activities, and positive thoughts. Watch your favorite movies and TV shows and spend lots of time relaxing and taking care of yourself. Also make sure that you are cheering yourself on, which can be hard during this time, but remember that every little victory is important. The more positive you can be and the more positive reinforcement you receive, the more likely you are to feel better and continue down the path you’ve started until, one day, you will no longer be dependent on opioids.