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What You Need to Know about Opioid Withdrawal – Oxford

Opioid use and opioid withdrawal are increasingly in the news. On April 5, 2017, The Washington Post reported about the opioid crisis, ”Scott Gottlieb, the physician and entrepreneur who is President Trump’s nominee to head the Food and Drug Administration, told senators Wednesday that the nation’s opioid crisis is a “public health emergency on the order of Ebola and Zika” and requires dramatic action by the agency and the rest of government.” This is good news for those who are facing opioid withdrawal. It means that those in decision-making positions are calling attention to the need to provide resources people need for overcoming addiction to painkillers.

As recently as December 2016, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released statistical data about opioid use. The CDC says that opioids were responsible for 63.1% of the 52,000 people who died of drug overdose in 2015. The CDC calls on health practitioners to improve opioid prescribing practices that reduce unnecessary exposure to opioids and thus prevent addiction. As part of the solution, they published the CDC Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain in 2016. They also want to expand treatment capacity for those who have opioid use disorder (OUD).

Dangers of opioid withdrawal

You never wanted an opioid addiction, and now you’re dependent on opioids to maintain any type of physical stability. Opioid dependence can happen in a short time of taking high doses for pain. And, you need to be aware that opioid withdrawal may precede overdosing. Because when a person stops using, withdrawal symptoms may be too much to handle, causing a relapse. It is in the relapse that an overdose may happen.

Levels of opioid withdrawal

Opioid withdrawal symptoms are related to the amount of opioid you take, and the length of time you take it. Long-term use of opioids change the way nerve receptors work in the brain. So longer use and higher dosages have a more dramatic effect on brain function. Consequently, withdrawal may be mild, moderate, moderately severe or severe. The withdrawal experience is different for each person. Common symptoms within the first 24 hours after the last dose are:

  • Anxiety, restlessness
  • Runny nose
  • Unable to sleep, but yawning
  • Heavy sweating
  • Teary-eyed

Later, a person begins to experience:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Cramping
  • Rapid heartbeat and high blood pressure
  • Diarrhea
  • Possible blurred vision

Opioid withdrawal treatment

Because the tendency for relapse is so high, it is best to not go through opioid withdrawal alone. A medication-assisted treatment center can transition you off of opioids. The treatment minimizes withdrawal symptoms with legal substances such as methadone or buprenorphine. Medical professionals monitor withdrawal symptoms and adjust medication based on the individual’s need. But medication isn’t the only thing that is necessary. Because life gets messy with addiction, counseling helps the person deal with overcoming the addiction for recovery and a better life. The family of the person in treatment may also benefit from counseling. Addiction affects the whole family, and rebuilding trust is part of healing.

Opioid withdrawal treatment comes down to getting the support you need to get your life back on track. We’re not saying it’s easy, but it’s worth it. And it may mean the difference between life and death.


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