While prescription opioids can be a miracle drug for patients with chronic pain, they can also lead to years of addiction and heartache. Once someone develops a physical dependence to opiates it can be extremely hard to quit abusing drugs, especially when opiate withdrawal symptoms start to present themselves.
Opioids are a class of drugs designed to act as a pain reliever. This class contains two major categories: opiates and synthetic opioids. Opiates are drugs that are derived from opium poppy. This includes drugs like morphine, heroin, opium, and codeine. Synthetic opioids, like hydrocodone and oxycodone, have similar effects but are not made from opium poppy.
The most common prescription opioids are:
If you stop or try to decrease the number of opioids you are taking, you may start to experience physical opiate withdrawal symptoms. This is especially true if you have been abusing opiates or taking high doses for an extended period of time. Opioids, like most hard drugs, make major changes to the human body when taken in large doses or for long periods of time. When you suddenly stop taking the drug or try to lower the amount of the drug taken, your body will try to adjust to no longer having the drug. It can take days, or months, for opiate withdrawal symptoms to subside depending on how often and how much of the drug was abused.
The severity of opioid withdrawal symptoms can vary person to person, but they are generally categorized as mild, moderate, moderately severe, and severe. Where you fall on the scale can be determined during your intake. This is largely done by evaluating your history of drug abuse. However, there are tools like the Clinical Opiate Withdrawal Scale to aid in diagnosis.
Early opiate withdrawal symptoms and side effects include:
Late opiate withdrawal symptoms and side effects include:
While opiate withdrawal symptoms may seem scary, they can be mitigated through medical detox program. Medical detox programs utilize fully trained medical staff, addiction specialist, and specialized medications to treat drug withdrawals. This can make the detox process easier, more comfortable, and more successful than tradition detox programs.
When you regularly take and abuse opiates, your body starts to become desensitized to the effects of the drug. Over time, you will need to take more and more of the drug to achieve a “high.” This can be extremely dangerous, as your risk of accidental overdose will increase with your tolerance.
Over the course of opiate addiction, opiates will start to change the way the nerve receptors in your brain operate. These receptors become dependent on opiates in order to function, which creates what addiction specialist refer to as a physical dependence. If you develop a dependency to opiates and suddenly attempt to stop drug use completely, your body is naturally going to react to the absence of the drug. Opiate withdrawal symptoms are your body’s response to no longer having opiates in your system. Many people who are addicted to opiates continue using as a means of avoiding the opiate withdrawal symptoms and side effects. They no longer experience enjoyment and excitement when using the drug itself. In other cases, users may not realize that they have developed a physical dependence at all. Many people misinterpret signs of withdrawal as a cold or flu symptoms.