What are opioids? Opioids are a powerful class of drugs used for pain management. Prescription Oxycontin, Vicodin, Dilaudid and morphine are all opioids; so is the illicit substance heroin. These drugs affect the nervous system in three areas:
- The brainstem, where opioids slow breathing and reduce coughing
- The limbic system, where opioids induce feelings of pleasure
- The spinal cord, where opioids numb sensations of pain
Opioids have a high potential for abuse and physical dependence; moreover, dependence heightens the risk of a fatal overdose.
What is opioid withdrawal? Prolonged use of these drugs alter nerve receptors in the brain, making them require the drug for normal functioning. Therefore withdrawal symptoms occur when the body responds to an absence of opioids.
Certain drugs stay in your system longer than others, and symptoms can appear between 12 and 36 hours. Early symptoms include:
- Muscle pain
- Eyes tearing up
- Runny nose
- Heavy sweating
Later symptoms are more severe. They include:
- Abdominal cramping
- Goose bumps
- Dilated pupils and possibly blurry vision
- Rapid heartbeat
- High blood pressure
Symptoms generally improve within three days and disappear within a week.
Are there treatments for opioid withdrawal?
Many people try to face the symptoms of opioid withdrawal alone. However, going through it in a medically controlled setting getting improves the chances of success. Doctors may prescribe certain opioid withdrawal drugs, which are themselves opioids but can be gradually reduced.
Certain complications can arise from opioid withdrawal and should receive medical attention. These include aspiration, where vomit is breathed into the lungs, and dehydration from vomiting and diarrhea. Although withdrawal is difficult, it is not life threatening, and the benefits to your physical and mental health are worth the pain.
Are you dependent on opioids and want to quit? Segal’s clinical research studies on opioid dependence and withdrawal can provide medical care at no cost to you. Fill out our pre-screen form below to see if you qualify!