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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.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Prescription Opioid Diversion

prescription opioids
When most people are given a prescription for an opioid painkiller, they take the medication until the pain dissipates. It is quite common for there to be leftover tablets sitting in the medicine cabinet. Patients usually forget the pills are even there and continue living their life.

The prescription opioid epidemic that has been raging since 1999 has prompted a number of actions that were previously deemed unnecessary. Leftover opioid painkillers pose a serious threat, and often end up in the wrong hands. That is why prescription drug take-back programs have become more and more common in recent years. Opioid addicts will scavenge other people's medicine cabinets for drugs like oxycodone and Percocet. More importantly, teens will also raid their parents' medication bottles as well.

Such drugs are highly addictive and carry a large risk of overdose. It is vital that those with leftover medication dispose of them properly. Many pharmacies will actually take back unused medications. Another common trend of concern is medication diversion. People with a prescription for opioids giving the drugs away to friends, family or peers. A new study sought to find out how often painkiller sharing occurs.

A team of researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, MD, found that 50 percent of patients with prescribed opioids have leftover tablets and 20 percent share the drugs, MNT reports. The findings were published in JAMA Internal Medicine.

"The fact that people are sharing their leftover prescription painkillers at such high rates is a big concern,” said Prof. Colleen L. Barry, Ph.D., senior study author. “It's fine to give a friend a Tylenol if they're having pain, but it's not fine to give your OxyContin to someone without a prescription." 

There were some other findings of note, including:
  • 14 percent of respondents said they would share with family.
  • 8 percent said they would share the pills with a friend.
  • Less than 50 percent were not given safe storage or proper disposal information.
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