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What You Need to Know About Detoxing from Opiates

Opiates and opioids are a class of prescription drugs that are often used to treat pain. Though they can be very effective in keeping pain at bay from injuries, surgeries, or common issues like migraines or back pain, they can become very dangerous when taken excessively or over an extended period of time. Commonly prescribed opiates are Oxycontin, Vicodin, and Dilaudid and are meant to be taken for a short period of time until the cause of the pain heals or another solution is found. However, because these drugs are highly addictive, many people find themselves unable to wean themselves off the drugs in the recommended amount of time. Others begin taking more and more of the drugs as their bodies become used to them and they need higher doses to get the same effects.

How Do Opiates Work?

Opioids affect nearly every part of the body, attaching themselves to receptors in the spinal cord, gastrointestinal tract, and the brain. The brain itself produces its own opioids that can prevent anxiety and depression and manage pain, but not in high enough quantities to deal with injuries or other causes of intense pain. Prescription opiates mimic the brain’s own opioids, but in higher quantities. Depending on the amount taken, they can have major effects on different parts of the body. In the brain, opioids can affect the brainstem and slow breathing, reduce couching, and affect the rate at which the heart beats. They can also have an effect on the limbic system, which controls emotions and levels of anxiety, and on the spinal cord, affecting the messages that are sent from that system to the brain.

While the effects on the brain and the rest of the body may be positive at first and produce feelings of reduced anxiety and pain, the user becomes desensitized to the effects and must take more and more over time to produce the same results. The more opioids that are taken, the greater the risk of side effects and possible overdose. Those who take opioids over a long period of time can develop a dependency on them as the receptors in the brain can begin to rely on them to function properly. If the individual attempts to reduce the amount they take or stop taking them completely, they can become ill or experience other withdrawal symptoms.

Opioid Addiction and Withdrawal

The National Institute on Drug Abuse estimates that over two million people in the United States abuse opioids. Because many opioids are legal when prescribed by a physician, many who take them do not view themselves as addicts and are not aware they have a problem until it’s too late. If you have been taking opioids for longer than the prescribed time frame, are taking more than your prescribed amount, or feel sick when you attempt to reduce the amount of opioids you take, you could be addicted.

Though withdrawal symptoms vary from person to person, there is usually a typical timeline that most addicts experience. Within the first 24 hours after stopping the drug, individuals may experience restlessness, anxiety, runny nose, excessive sweating, muscle aches, insomnia, and excessive yawning. After 24 hours, these symptoms usually intensify and progress to more serious problems that can include abdominal cramping, nausea and vomiting, rapid heartbeat, high blood pressure, blurry vision, and diarrhea. While these symptoms can be painful and frightening, they usually improve for most people within 72 hours. However, many of those experiencing withdrawal never make it past the first few days and end up resuming their opioid use to deal with the symptoms.

Getting Help

Many of those experiencing opioid addiction tend to go through a cycle of abuse followed by an attempt to stop using the drugs. However, once they start experiencing withdrawal symptoms, they begin abusing the drugs again and the cycle starts over—usually with higher levels of opiate intake than before. For these individuals, it’s vital they get medical help to assist them in breaking the cycle and ending the addiction once and for all.

Getting medical help in a controlled environment and with the assistance of certain types of drugs can be very effective in treating opiate addiction. Though some individuals can treat themselves at home with over-the-counter medications such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen, others need stronger drugs under medical supervision to get through the withdrawal period and successfully recover.

Many clinics that specialize in opioid addiction recovery use the drug suboxone, which is a combination of a mild opioid called buprenorphine and an opioid blocker called naloxone. The drug does not produce the addictive effects of stronger opioids and the naloxone helps to prevent withdrawal symptoms such as constipation. The drug can be used to shorten the intensity and timeframe of withdrawal symptoms and help patients detoxify their bodies of other opiates.

Though it is believed to be a safer and less addictive alternative to the other widely-used opioid addiction medication, methadone, suboxone still carries some risks and can cause side effects such as dizziness, vomiting, loss of coordination, difficulty breathing, dry mouth, drowsiness, and difficulty concentrating. If taken in a clinical setting, experienced staff can help patients exhibiting these symptoms and adjust dosages to lessen the negative side effects.

In addition to using suboxone to help deal with withdrawal symptoms, clinics that specialize in opioid abuse may also recommend therapy in a group, family, or individual setting to help the individual deal with other issues that have helped contribute to their addiction. The combined use of medication and therapy can help addicts recover both physically and emotionally from their addiction and be better prepared to live their lives free of addictive substances.

Addiction to opioids is a serious problem in the United States and can lead to anxiety, depression, health problems, or even death. If you or someone you love is experiencing issues with opioids, contact one of our specialists at Mango Clinic to get the help you need.


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