Resources & Education

May 5th, 2016

Understanding the Emotional and Physical Pain of Withdrawal

Stomach ProblemThere’s anxiety and panic and feelings of dread and thoughts of this never getting better. And the depression.

I had runny eyes, runny nose, diarrhea, dehydration, complete lack of appetite, overwhelming nausea, pain in every part of my body.

It’s like a sustained case of the flu that can go on for a while, with minor chills and sweats and diarrhea. But the actual physical part is less the issue than the psychological part.

These words, spoken by former opiate addicts, offer just a tiny view into the realities of the physical, emotional, and psychological battle they must first wage against withdrawal if they hope to win the war against addiction.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, approximately 2.1 million people in the United States abuse opioids. Opiates class of drugs that are commonly prescribed to treat pain. Common brand name prescription opiates include OxyContin, Vicodin, and Dilaudid. Illicit forms of opiates include heroin and opium. Both the legal and illegal varieties can be highly addictive and can cause severe physical dependency.

To help addicts to recover from their addiction and learn to live drug-free lives, healthcare professionals and addiction treatment specialists must first help addicts to wade through the difficult waters of withdrawal. Long-term drug use causes many of the systems in your body to become altered. When drug use stops suddenly, your body must adjust to the absence of addiction-causing chemicals, which results in uncomfortable, and even painful, side effects.

Opiate withdrawal can be categorized as mild, moderate, moderately severe, and severe. The types of symptoms experienced will depend upon the severity of the withdrawal process. Multiple factors dictate how long a person will suffer symptoms. Even though each recovering addict experiences withdrawal differently, there is a typical timeline for the progression of symptoms.

Early symptoms typically begin in the first 24 hours after using opiates. Early symptoms include:

  • Muscle aches
  • Restlessness
  • Anxiety
  • Tearing eyes
  • Runny nose
  • Excessive sweating
  • Inability to sleep
  • Yawning

After the initial day of withdrawal, symptoms typically include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Goosebumps on the skin
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Dilated pupils and possible blurry vision
  • Accelerated heartbeat
  • High blood pressure

Symptoms typically begin to improve within 72 hours and disappear completely within one week.

For opiate addicts looking to recover, staying sober during the first 72 hours of withdrawal and not reverting back to drug use is crucial to addiction recovery. Those looking to recover are most likely to successfully complete the withdrawal process if they are in a safe place and are with individuals that are supporting their efforts to recover and helping to care for them during the difficult days of withdrawal.

The Support and Care of Detox Treatment Centers
Drug detoxification treatment centers can help recovering addicts to safely cleanse their bodies of drugs and help them resist the temptation to relapse. Some detox centers provide medications to help alleviate symptoms, manage cravings, and block chemical highs that cause feelings of addiction. Detox centers also provide emotional support and the knowledge and expertise of drug addiction rehabilitation professionals that aim to offer long-term care and recovery planning.

After the withdrawal process ends, the recovery process begins. The therapists at drug detox centers offer personalized treatment plans, individual, family and group therapy sessions, and transitional planning. The goal of addiction recovery experts is to provide recovering addicts with the tools and support they need to stick to their recovery treatment plans both in the short and long term.

If you or a loved one is ready to begin the path to recovery, but fear the symptoms of withdrawal, know that there are experts ready and willing to help you to recover as safely and as comfortably as possible. If you live in the WNY area, Horizon Village Terrace House offers an alternative to hospitalization for supervised opiate withdrawal. Call 716.831.1800 for more information.

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