Opiate withdrawal is the presentation of various adverse symptoms by an individual as a reverse effect of intoxication from opiates like morphine, codeine, thebain and heroin. Most of opium drugs come from Asia and the term opiate may also refer to natural and semi-synthetic derivatives of morphine. The condition is also called dopesickness, cold turkey or withdrawal from opiods. All cases of withdrawal involve an addictive drug and duration and severity of symptoms may vary depending on the type of drug used as well as the body’s response to concurrent consumption.
Some individuals unintentionally misuse opiates causing withdrawal symptoms while others have been using illegal drugs for some time with full knowledge of the side effects. Around 9% of the population misuses the drugs. As for illegal consumption, most individuals ages 15 to 25 years old are users while the rest are in their middle or late adulthood. Addictive drugs can cause the body to physically depend on them. Over time, higher amounts of drugs are needed to produce similar effects and if the drug is discontinued, the body then goes into a recovery period causing physical symptoms to occur.
Patients consider opiate withdrawal symptoms to be extremely painful but not life-threatening. Several physical symptoms can arise such as restlessness, muscle and bone pain, insomnia, diarrhea, vomiting, cold flushes, cold sweats, shivering or shakiness, abdominal cramping or pain, dilated pupils, runny nose, goose bumps, profuse sweating, nausea, headache and muscle tension. Patients may also experience neurological symptoms such as general depression or dysphoria. Symptoms can last anywhere from a few days to several weeks depending on the patient’s developed drug dependency.
It is important to screen the affected individual for presence of other mental illnesses as well. Urine analysis or serum drug screen will most likely show the presence of opiates and other abused drugs in the system. Due to severe vomiting and diarrhea, patients are at risk for fluid and electrolyte imbalance so they should be provided with enough water to avoid dehydration. The person undergoing opiate withdrawal will continue to crave for the drug by exhibiting the symptoms. Intensity of symptoms may be more severe during the first few days or weeks then gradually subsides later on.
Drug dependence is defined as the state wherein the body becomes used to ingesting particular amounts of opiates on a regular basis. Examples of opiates which are addictive drugs would be morphine, codeine, heroin, hydrocodone, oxycontin, Dilaudid, methadone, Vicodin, Percocet and Percodan. Drastic stopping or reduction of intake of opiates will cause the body to go into withdrawal since it has become accustomed to a certain amount regularly. People taking lower doses for shorter periods of time are less likely to manifest symptoms compared to those with high dosage prescriptions.
Once individuals do not receive adequate amounts as depended on by the body, symptoms will result alerting the person that he or she needs more. Withdrawal symptoms can occur 6 to 8 hours after the last dosage while others may take days depending on severity. Reasons why people may abruptly change or stop dosage may be detoxification methods for drug abusers, opiate overdose or when the body develops tolerance for the drugs requiring higher amounts to achieve the same results and other rapid opiate detox approaches.
In treating opiate withdrawal, medical management is commonly recommended by health experts and doctors. Throughout the course of treatment, the patient needs to be monitored for adverse physical and mental symptoms and to ensure that he or she successfully goes through detoxification. Clonidine is an antihypertensive drug commonly used to treat the condition. Other drugs may be given as necessary to help relieve other specific symptoms of the problem. Methadone is another useful cross-tolerate opiate that does not normally produce chemical brain changes responsible for giving the person feelings of getting “high”. Methadone is provided to the patient instead of the desired opiate. The drug is given every 4 to 6 hours for a duration of 3 weeks.
Naltrexone is an opiate antagonistic drug that works by blocking opiate receptors thereby reversing the effects of the drugs triggering the withdrawal response. Clonidine is used in conjunction with others to help reduce the expected symptoms. Anesthesia will be provided to the patient so that symptoms occur while the patient is asleep. Physical condition of the patient is monitored for 3 to 4 hours to make sure that vital signs are stable. This technique is usually employed in rapid opiate detoxification or ROD. Vomiting needs to be watched out for carefully though since there is risk for death while the patient is under anesthesia.
The biggest complication of opiate withdrawal is death. The developed tolerance can cause individuals to overdose even on a much smaller dosage. Treatment may last longer for drug addicts which includes psychotherapy, support groups, rehabilitation programs and maintenance medications. The patient may experience depression from getting off the drugs so mental wellness should be attended too.
The most obvious way to prevent opiate withdrawal would be to abstain from taking addictive drugs. People should be aware of the consequences of both withdrawing from opiates as well as taking opiates in any amount without a doctor’s prescription. Those who may be taking prescribed drugs should only take them as needed or in the best amount that will produce helpful effects. When treatment period is over, the amount should be tapered off carefully to experience as little symptoms as possible.
There are several ways to prevent drug abuse such as finding reliable means of support from family and friends. Socializing is a great way to know more about the harmful and devastating effects of drugs. Patient education programs are very important in letting people know how bad it would be before they completely get and stay off drugs. Maintaining healthy habits like a sound diet, regular exercise and adequate rest will help keep the body in top shape to handle drugs as needed.