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What Are Opioid Withdrawal Symptoms?

May 28, 2021

Opioids are a class of drugs that are commonly used to help patients deal with pain – such as that caused from injuries or surgeries. There are two main types of opioids: opiates (such as morphine, codeine, and heroin) and synthetic opioids (such as hydrocodone, oxycodone, and methadone).

Even though they are effective when it comes to treating pain, they can cause physical dependence and addiction, and it is estimated that more than two million people in the United States are dependent on them from abuse.

When opioid usage is stopped or decreased, the person taking them may experience physical symptoms of withdrawal. The intensity of the withdrawals is impacted by how long the person has been taking opioids for and at what dosage. Higher doses and longer lengths will result in more intense withdrawals and worse symptoms. They occur as a result of the body adjusting to no longer having opioids in its system.

What Causes Opioid Withdrawal?

Taking opioids over a long period of time will result in your body becoming desensitized to the effects. As a result, your body will need more and more to achieve the same effect – resulting in increasing the risk of accidental overdose.

Opioids work by changing the way nerve receptors work in the brain, which become dependent on the drug in order to function. Many people aren’t even aware they have become dependent on them, and may mistake their withdrawal symptoms for something else, like the flu.

Progression of Symptoms

As noted above, multiple factors contribute to the intensity of withdrawal, and therefore, what symptoms the user will experience. As a result, everyone experiences opioid withdrawal differently. With that said, there’s still a general timeline for the progress of symptoms that most people experience.

Early Symptoms

These usually begin within the first 24 hours after stopping usage:

  • Muscle aches
  • Restlessness
  • Anxiety
  • Sweating
  • Inability to sleep
  • Yawning

Later Symptoms

These usually begin after the first day:

  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Goosebumps
  • Dilated pupils
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • High blood pressure

Some withdrawal symptoms may present themselves at any point over a period of 6 months, also referred to as “protracted abstinence.” Be sure to discuss ongoing symptoms with your healthcare provider.

IHAT is Here For You

As a preferred OBOT (office-based opiate treatment center), IHAT can help you get the help you need to overcome opiate dependency. With our comprehensive approach that includes medically-assisted treatment (Suboxone), you can be sure that your needs will be accommodated while we work together to produce the best recovery outcome.

Contact us today for more info.

Doug Choate

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