Opiate Addiction Treatment: Coping with Opiate Withdrawal


Weaning your body off any drug or substance you’ve previously had a dependance on can be difficult.  Opiate withdrawal however can be extraordinarily uncomfortable.


The primary purpose of the opiate group of drugs is to treat pain.  Consider the names morphine, codeine, methadone.  You have probably heard of these opioids before.  They are common pain relievers used in medical emergencies and certain surgical procedures on a daily basis.  These drugs provide a sense of euphoria that can help a patient overcome acute pain or suffering.


The problem is that not only are these drugs and other opioids very effective for pain relief, they are also highly addictive following prolonged exposure.  Other drugs that fall into the opioid category include heroin, Oxycontin, Dilaudid and more.


Why are they so addictive?  Continued use of opiate drugs can inhibit the production of your bodies natural painkillers, or endorphins, due to nerve damage within the brain.  If your body cannot provide its own natural pain relief, then it can lead to a dependance on opiates drugs to fulfil this role.



The good news though is that opiate addiction is very treatable.  Hopefully if you are reading this and have suffered from opiate dependance you are already on the road to recovery.


The physical illness that results when a drug user stops using opiates is termed opiate withdrawal.  These symptoms can last from several days even up to a month.  But at the time it can seem like a lifetime due to the aggressive nature of withdrawal.


What sort of symptoms?  There are a range of symptoms and the experience differs markedly from person to person.  Common withdrawal features include: A lack of energy, irritability, insomnia, anxiety, sweats, shakes, muscle and bone aches, stomach cramps, vomiting, nausea and diarrhoea.  While not normally life threatening, these symptoms can make recovery a daunting process.


Medical treatment is often used to make withdrawal easier.  Let’s touch on a few of the options for coping with opiate withdrawal.


Replacement therapy

What is replacement therapy?  A common approach for opiate treatment is to provide a patient with replacement medication that tricks the body into believing it is still receiving opiate drugs.  This has the favourable impact of allowing the opiate detox process to continue, while minimising the volume and impact of opiate withdrawal symptoms.


Ongoing medication

Specific medicines are commonly supplied to reduce the aggressiveness of certain symptoms, such vomiting and diarrhoea.  In some instances long term medical maintenance programs will be instituted where an opiate drug is administered in slowly decreasing dosages over time to reduce the magnitude of withdrawal effects.


Support groups and counselling 

The support of peers and trained counsellors can be integral to managing through the burdensome opiate withdrawal phase.  Trained specialists can deliver individual counselling, therapy and group facilitation to support and mentor those affected by opiate abuse.  While talking about the pain may not make it go away, understanding that others in your support network are navigating their way through similar experiences may provide some comfort.


Even after the completion of your initial detox and opiate withdrawal phase it is recommended sufferers of opiate addiction continue with long term after care to minimise the chance of relapse.  There are a variety of after care alternatives available.  Ensure that before you complete detox you commit to an after care program for ongoing support and follow up.

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