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Friday, July 22, 2016

The Pain of Opioid Withdrawal

prescription opioids
It is easy to blame the American opioid epidemic on doctors, pharmaceutical companies and our over reliance on prescription drugs. While all of those played a huge role in the issue becoming a full blown national crisis, the fact remains that opioid narcotics are extremely difficult to stop using for many people—especially those who experience legitimate chronic pain. Those of you in recovery for an opioid use disorder, whether prescription painkillers or heroin, know all too well just how difficult it was to break the cycle of opioid addiction.

It often takes people suffering from opioid addiction a number of attempts at abstinence to finally succeed. And those who do manage to find recovery from such drugs typically need assistance via medical detox, inpatient treatment and regular attendance at 12-Step recovery meetings.

Those who have known alcoholics who managed to sober up using Alcoholics Anonymous, may find themselves asking why opioid addicts are unable to do the same? The answer to that question usually lies in the nature of opioid withdrawal. The early days of abstinence from opioids is by all accounts an extremely painful, uncomfortable experience. Typically characterized by:
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Diarrhea
  • Cramping
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Nausea
  • Pain
  • Restlessness
While it is true that opioid withdrawal is painful, those who actually have a chronic pain condition which led to the use of opioids in the first place, are met with even more pain as the drugs leave their system. What’s more, it can take some time for the brain to start producing painkilling endorphins after being idle for extended periods of time. Those who cannot tolerate the pain experienced during that interim period are at great risk of relapse, HealthDay reports. Kelly Dunn, an addiction specialist who researches opioids at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, in Baltimore, points out that:

"When you stop taking opioids it takes time for your body to regenerate its own 'painkiller' system," she explained. "Generally, four to five days. The severity varies per patient, and it's not predictable who will react how -- but withdrawal is real." 

It for the reasons mentioned above that many prescription opioid addicts require inpatient treatment. Being in a monitored environment, closed off from the medicine cabinet at home and aided by addiction withdrawal medicines are vital to the success of recovery.

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