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Opiate Medical Withdrawal

Opiates are a class of drug that is derived from the opium poppy, most commonly heroin and many narcotic pain medications which are some of the most addictive and harmful of drugs. There are also synthetic opiates that don’t come from the poppy plant, but which have a similar effect. Many prescription drugs are opiates, including Oxycontin, Percocet, Lorcet, Vicodin, Dilaudid and MSContin. People who abuse heroin or pain medications gradually develop a habit, having to take a certain amount of the drug every day in order to avoid withdrawal symptoms. This habit will intensify over time as more drugs will be needed to maintain the same effect.

When a person who is physically dependent on opiates suddenly stops taking them, they experience opiate withdrawal. Physical dependence means that the body has become accustomed to the drug due to continued use over time. There are a wide range of symptoms for opiate withdrawal, and individuals experience some or all of them in varying intensities based on the length of time they used the drug and the dosage. Common opiate withdrawal symptoms are:

  • Muscle aches
  • Chills
  • Insomnia
  • Runny nose
  • Stomach cramps
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Anxiety
  • Headache
  • Twitching, and/or
    muscle spasms

The length of time these symptoms persist also varies. A small habit may result in a short withdrawal period of 3 or 4 days and only produce a few symptoms. Larger habits may cause symptoms that last for weeks. The typical opiate withdrawal period is around 7 days, with the most intense symptoms peaking about 72 hours after last use. Because of the length of the physical and psychological withdrawal process, it is extremely difficult for people to get through it without the help of a detox center. Most people will break down after 2 or 3 days and return to using drugs.

Some detox centers do not medicate their patients during withdrawal. This unpleasant method is known as “cold turkey” and here at SOBA Recovery Center Detox, we don’t believe in it. Opiate withdrawal symptoms can produce potentially dangerous health situations including elevation in blood pressure and dehydration. Left untreated, the pain of the withdrawal symptoms can make it psychologically difficult to stay in the detoxification facility and makes the client more likely to leave detox prematurely.

That said, other detox facilities will over medicate patients to the point where they are incoherent throughout their stay. They will medicate with large doses of other opiates or methadone for 7 days and discharge the patient with minimal follow-up. Substituting other drugs for the opiates only delays the onset of withdrawal symptoms. The person will leave the program feeling fine, but fall back into full-blown withdrawal as the detox medications wear off.

At SOBA Recovery Center Detox, we use a mainly buprenorphine based medication that effectively manages opiate withdrawal symptoms. This medication allows our clients to remain comfortable and alert during their stay with us. We supplement the buprenorphine with a number of other medications to treat any discomfort that may arise. Buprenorphine also allows the client to leave detox with virtually no withdrawal symptoms. This treatment even works with synthetic opiates, like methadone.