Safe and Successful Opiate Withdrawal

When people think about addiction, they quickly think about opioid drugs. Opioids have been linked to thousands of drug overdose deaths in recent years. Another often unfamiliar term used when discussing addiction and overdose is opiate. Although the terms opioid and opiate are often used interchangeably, it is essential to note they mean different things.

Opioid drugs are “created” in three different ways. They are either all-natural, synthetic, or semisynthetic opioids. The term opiate refers to natural opioids. Perhaps, it is best to understand the term opiate as a subcategory of opioids.

Three prescription medication bottles with white oxycodone pills spilling out of one bottle to help with safe and successful opiate withdrawal.

Someone with an opiate addiction may be addicted to prescription pain medications such as oxycodone or codeine or illegal opioids like heroin. When someone struggles with opioid addiction, the disease will eventually lead to significant physical and psychological changes to the brain and body. The only safe and effective way to overcome an opiate addiction is at an addiction treatment center like Cal Recovery Center.

What are Opiates?

Opiate drugs are among the most addictive substances available. Each year millions of prescriptions are provided to patients who often develop a dependency within a few doses. Opiates are prescription substances derived from Opium, a naturally occurring chemical in poppy seeds and plants. Natural opiates are those directly derived from the plant. The most well-known include Codeine, Opium, and Morphine. The term opiates also include opioid drugs, many of which are synthesized or manufactured drugs, including opium poppy and other compounds. Common opioids include heroin, fentanyl, and prescription pain medications such as oxycodone, morphine, and hydrocodone.

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Signs and Symptoms of Opiate Addiction

Despite tightening controls on prescription medications and enhanced efforts by state and local agencies to get illicit opiates off the streets, the opiate epidemic across the nation continues to lead to loss of life in every state. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 70% of the drug-related deaths in 2019 involved at least one opiate. Additionally, the death rate attributed to prescription opiates increased by 7%, synthetic opiates increased by 15%, and overall opiate-involved death rates increased by 6%. In the last decade, nearly half a million people died from an overdose linked to an opiate drug.

Anyone who uses opiates, regardless of the reason for their use, is at an increased risk for addiction. It can be challenging to separate signs and symptoms of addiction from the drug’s desired effects early on. However, it is vital to understand the potential indicators of addiction to ensure you or a loved one have early access to treatment.

Common symptoms of opiate addiction may include:

  • The inability to control or resist using
  • Decreased libido
  • Stealing items or money from friends, loved ones, or co-workers to buy drugs
  • Changes in personal hygiene
  • Changes in activity levels
  • Increased isolation or avoiding family and friends
  • Changes in finances
  • Stealing prescriptions
  • New or worsening legal problems
  • Difficulties sleeping
  • Diet changes and sudden weight loss

Types of Withdrawal – Acute vs. Protracted Withdrawal

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), there are two types of withdrawal. Acute withdrawal symptoms (generally referred to as withdrawal) are those symptoms you feel immediately after you stop using a substance. These withdrawal symptoms tend to be the opposite feelings or emotions of those you experience when using. Generally, acute withdrawal symptoms last between 3 and 7 days, but, in some cases, they can last up to a month. Symptoms that last beyond this period are called protracted withdrawal symptoms (sometimes referred to as extended withdrawal, chronic withdrawal, or post-acute withdrawal). Protracted withdrawal can be a significant factor in incidences of relapse.

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The Opiate Withdrawal Timeline

Opiate withdrawal starts when you actively decide to stop using a drug or reduce the amount you use. Depending on the substance, the first withdrawal symptoms generally appear within six hours after your last dose. In general, withdrawal symptoms are present for one to two weeks. The duration of withdrawal depends on various factors, including the specific substance and the severity of your addiction. Also, the severity of the symptoms you experience at each withdrawal stage will vary based on those same factors.

During the first 24 hours of withdrawal, most people experience mild to moderate symptoms. These generally include headaches, agitation, body aches and pains, problems sleeping, appetite changes, and cravings. In some cases, cravings to use again can be very intense and often worsen as withdrawal continues.

During the second day of withdrawal (between 24 and 48 hours), other symptoms occur. Also, the acute symptoms from the first few hours of withdrawal may intensify. In addition to the day one symptoms, many people experience panic, insomnia, runny nose, sweating, and worsening stomach issues.

Days three and four generally mark peak symptoms for short-acting and long-acting opiates. In addition to previous symptoms, new withdrawal effects that occur as withdrawal progresses may include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, cramping, fatigue, shivering, and enlarged pupils. Although symptoms may peak around this time for some, it is not the case for all.

For most people, opiate withdrawal lasts for one to two weeks. However, some people may experience a condition called Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome or PAWS. Withdrawal symptoms may last for months after their last dose for someone with PAWS. Although severe and potentially dangerous symptoms are often not of concern, mild and unpleasant challenges such as sleeping problems, ongoing cravings, depression, irritability, and fatigue may linger.

Why Cold Turkey Detox Can be Dangerous

Detoxing alone or “cold turkey” can be dangerous, even fatal. Suddenly stopping the use of an opiate drug can cause severe and sudden withdrawal symptoms. This is especially true when detoxing from opiate drugs.  Opiate withdrawal can lead to overwhelming and potentially dangerous effects requiring urgent medical intervention. Although cold turkey may seem easier for several reasons, it is often the least effective way to achieve lasting sobriety.

Withdrawal symptoms will occur regardless of where you begin your detox journey. However, choosing to detox at a professional rehab like Hotel California by the Sea ensures that you will have the support and guidance of a highly skilled medical and mental health treatment staff as you begin to detox. The benefits of medically supervised detox are many. However, the most notable is that when severe withdrawal symptoms occur, someone is there to help you successfully navigate and manage the challenges they create. Depending on the severity of your withdrawal, staff at a medically supervised detox program can provide medications to help reduce the severity of your symptoms, allowing you to focus on healing.

When you detox alone, it is possible that vital and possibly life-saving help may not be available should you need it. Additionally, cold turkey detox is a significant factor in many relapse cases. Often, when withdrawal symptoms become complicated and complex, individuals will turn to their substance of choice to help stop the occurrence of symptoms. Also, when they begin using again, they often use at higher and more frequent intervals to quickly control their withdrawal symptoms. This significantly increases one’s risk for overdose.

Where to Get Help with Detox

Medically supervised programs like ours at Hotel California by the Sea provide the most successful path to sobriety. In a medically supervised drug and alcohol detox program, you have access to highly skilled medical and mental health providers. Traditional and alternative therapy models are added to your treatment plan as you progress through treatment. Each carefully chosen treatment model is designed to help you achieve your treatment needs and goals.

Detox and withdrawal can be unpleasant and challenging. Seeking help can make the withdrawal process more comfortable and manageable than would be feasible when trying to quit on your own.

It is important to remember that detoxing from substances is not treatment. Although it is possible to quit some substances without assistance, simply stopping using drugs does not address the root cause of your addiction. Overcoming addiction and maintaining lasting sobriety requires understanding the reasons behind why you use. Achieving ongoing recovery also requires completing an addiction treatment program designed to help you understand addiction and relapse prevention.

When you arrive at our California rehab, we will work with you to develop a comprehensive treatment plan that focuses on your unique needs. Addiction is a disease that affects everyone in unique ways. For this reason, cookie-cutter treatment programs that apply the same treatment to all patients are often unsuccessful in helping you heal. If the first step on your recovery journey is detox, the professionals in our medically assisted detox program will provide support and guidance throughout the detox process. They will monitor your vitals, including blood pressure, heart rate, and temperature, to ensure your detox is as smooth and comfortable as possible. Depending on your unique needs, treatment staff may provide medications to help reduce the intensity and severity of your symptoms. Once detox is complete, you can easily transition into a therapeutic addiction treatment program.

If you or a loved one struggles with an opiate addiction or you are concerned about the signs of withdrawal, contact us at Hotel California by the Sea today. Detox is a vital step towards overcoming an opiate addiction. However, it is a step that should be done as part of a comprehensive and supported addiction treatment program. Let us help you take your first steps towards lasting sobriety.