Symptoms of Opioid Withdrawal
Although the opioid drug category technically includes heroin, most use this term to refer to narcotic painkillers that can be obtained with a medical prescription. Examples include oxycodone, morphine, hydrocodone, and fentanyl. Opioid abuse often starts with a legal subscription for pain management. Over time, users can develop a physical dependence as their tolerance increases. Addiction occurs when use is driven more by the desire to avoid withdrawal symptoms than to manage the initial pain.
Withdrawal symptoms appear in two stages. Early symptoms will typically occur within 24 hours and can include restlessness, agitation, muscle aches, joint pain, teary eyes, runny nose, insomnia, anxiety, sweating, and yawning. Late symptoms begin to appear after a day or so and can include abdominal cramping, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, rapid heart rate, high blood pressure, dilated pupils, and goose bumps.
Although withdrawal symptoms can be extremely uncomfortable, they are typically not life-threatening. Symptoms may vary in intensity based on a number of personal factors including overall personal health, level of dependency, and length of addiction.
There is also a risk of complications from withdrawal including vomiting, lung aspiration and infection leading to pneumonia, and dehydration. Users in withdrawal also face a higher risk of fatal overdose. During withdrawal, the body’s tolerance for opioids will decrease. Users who return to opioids during detox to avoid the uncomfortable symptoms may be unaware of their lowered tolerance and easily overdose.
Although opioid withdrawal is painful and difficult, there is hope. While the duration of withdrawal symptoms will vary by individual, many may find that symptoms lessen within 72 hours and can fade completely within a week. It can take up to six months, however, to achieve freedom from opioid dependence, and withdrawal symptoms can reappear throughout this time.
It is highly recommended that opioid abusers seek help from a treatment facility before attempting withdrawal. Medical professionals can oversee the tapering off of drug use, monitor detox symptoms, and even provide medication to ease the discomfort of withdrawal. Treatment programs also provide long term support, greatly reducing the chances an opioid abuser will return to their drug abuse or accidentally overdose.
If you or someone you know is using or abusing opioids or experiencing withdrawal symptoms, please contact us today.