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stages of opiate withdrawal

Stages of Opiate Withdrawal

Stages of Opiate Withdrawal

Opiates are addictive in part because they activate parts of the brain associated with pleasure. However, that is only part of the story. A person who takes painkillers or other opioids will find themselves chemically dependent on the drugs. Once this happens, overcoming addiction can be extremely difficult. The physical and emotional withdrawal symptoms pose a tremendous challenge to individuals looking for recovery.

How Opioids Work in the Brain

Your body naturally produces opioids, which attach to special receptors in the brain. These neurotransmitters help the body naturally regulate pain and stress.

Chemical opioids attach to the same receptors in the brain and have a similar effect of producing euphoria. However, they are significantly stronger than anything the body can produce on its own. These fake neurotransmitters flood the system and eventually prevent the body from producing opioids of its own. Part of what causes drug withdrawal symptoms is this lack of dopamine and related chemicals in the brain as the body adjusts to the absence of opioids.

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Stages of Opiate Withdrawal: A Timeline

Drug withdrawal presents a set of physical and emotional symptoms that can be extremely difficult to endure. However, it’s important to remember that withdrawal is temporary.

If you or a loved one is facing detoxification and rehab, know that the worst of the symptoms will last just a few days. Knowing what to expect and having a timeline of events in mind can help to ease some of the psychological pressure when facing withdrawal and recovery.

Withdrawal symptoms for short-acting opiates will begin within 12 hours of the last dose. For long-acting opiates, symptoms may start within 30 hours. Over the next two days, symptoms will continue to worsen, peaking around the 72 hour mark. By the end of the third day, most physical symptoms will have resolved. Psychological symptoms and cravings may continue for a week or more.

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stages of opioid withdrawal

Early withdrawal symptoms include the following:

  • Drug cravings
  • Agitation or anxiety
  • Muscle aches
  • Sweats and fever
  • Increased blood pressure and heart rate
  • Sleep disruption

These initial symptoms may cause restlessness and mood swings.

The later stage of withdrawal produces flu-like symptoms:

  • Nausea, vomiting or diarrhea
  • Goosebumps and shivering
  • Stomach cramps and pain

Depression and intense drug cravings may accompany this stage. These symptoms will generally peak within 72 hours and resolve within five days. From a physical standpoint, recovery is well underway. Physical symptoms of withdrawal may disappear quickly after the third day of detox. However, psychological symptoms may linger, and drug cravings may persist or come and go in the weeks and months that follow.

What About Drug Replacement?

In some cases, an alternative substance like Suboxone may be provided to help mitigate the effects of chemical dependence. This drug is classified as a “partial opioid agonist,” which means that it is a weaker type of opioid that cannot be abused. Other replacement drugs, like methadone, may also sometimes be used.

Addiction clinics and rehab facilities offer these medications as a stepping stone to help reduce the severity of drug withdrawal symptoms. However, users will still undergo withdrawal when weaning off of the replacement drug, and recovery will take longer when these medical aids are offered. There is also the risk of finding a way to abuse these medications.

The Importance of Support During Withdrawal

Drug detox and addiction recovery services are crucial to helping people recover safely throughout the stages of opiate withdrawal and stay away from drugs long-term.

One important but often overlooked symptom of withdrawal is suicidal ideation. Not everyone who undergoes withdrawal feels suicidal, but the feelings of depression can be overwhelming. People in the grip of withdrawal may experience mood swings and dark thoughts that seem to have no end point. The feeling that life may never be better than it is in that dark moment or that the addict can never be happy again without drugs can be overwhelming. For this reason, a strong support system is essential to the safety of people overcoming addiction. Recovering addicts need to know that their symptoms are temporary. They also need to be protected from opportunities for self-harm and relapse.

Protecting recovering addicts from relapse is especially important because many deadly overdoses occur during relapse. Because the user’s body is no longer accustomed to the drug, it will be more sensitive. What would have been a normal dose for the user before withdrawal can become a deadly overdose in the weeks that follow.

The best drug rehabilitation programs provide a strong support network for recovering addicts throughout all stages of recovery, including the difficult weeks that follow acute drug withdrawal. By continuing to offer support after the initial symptoms have faded, the rehab program can provide the best environment for successful and permanent drug cessation.

teen binge drinking

Consuming Alcohol with Parents Increases Risk of Teen Binge Drinking

The results of a number of studies have revealed that underage drinking with parents can lower the risk of heavy consumption. However, Norwegian researchers say that these results don’t give a complete picture.

Health authorities have advised parents against giving alcohol to minors, and rightfully so. Some research studies have discovered a link between underage teens being allowed to try some alcohol with their parents with a lower risk of developing harmful alcohol consumption patterns later in life, but is that really true?

Study Results Vary, Depending on Data Gathering Method

Which one is right? Drug and alcohol researchers Hilde Elisabeth Pape and Elin Bye at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health point out that there is a problem with some of the research that has been conducted to date. They say some of the questions have not been clear enough when distinguishing between different kinds of drinking with parents.

One study which found that drinking with parents had a harm-reducing result asked the question, “Was the latest drinking episode together with your parents?” It didn’t ask how often these drinking episodes occurred.

Pape’s work was published in Nordic Studies on Alcohol and Drugs. In it, a number of questions were asked, and the responses led to more detailed information. For example, “How many times during the past 12 months have you been drinking with your parents?” The 15 and 16-year-olds were also asked, “Did you drink with your parents the last time you drank alcohol?”

The answer to the first question determined the effect of drinking with parents. The second one gave the researchers a more complete understanding the situation than previous studies.

More Precise Data Gathering Leads to “Striking” Results

According to Pape, the study results were “striking.” Drinking with one or both parents twice or more within the past year placed teens at a “highly increased risk” of high consumption levels of alcohol and extreme intoxication. Pape also stated that parents who drink with their children “appear to be less intervening and caring than other parents.”

The results of an earlier study found that these parents stood out because they tended to drink quite heavily themselves.

When researchers considered answers to the questions about whom they had been drinking with during their last episode, it could appear as though drinking with parents had a positive influence. The results showed a clear association between a young person having their last drinking session with a parent and drinking less. It appears that drinking with parents leads to lower drinking levels. Unfortunately, this result is misleading.

Drinking with a parent could reflect a situation where a young person had a glass of champagne at a family celebration. The research only tracks a teen’s behavior as a snapshot; it doesn’t do a very good job of monitoring behavior over time.

What this study shows backs up common sense, that more frequent alcohol consumption allowed by parents seems to be an act of endorsing the behavior. Most experts recommend reinforcing responsible drinking patterns as adults, with abstinence being the best choice.