Opiates are narcotics that relax muscles and relieve pain. When consumed in high doses users experience pleasure, acute relaxation and semi-consciousness. Very high doses can result in coma or death.
Opiates include illegal recreational drugs such as heroin and opium; prescription pain medications such as morphine, oxycodone, and fentanyl; cough suppressants and anti-diarrheal medications that are codeine based; as well as opiate addiction treatment medications such as buprenorphine and methadone.
Opiate dependence means an opiate user is susceptible to opiate withdrawal symptoms whenever he or she stops taking opiates. The length of time required to become physically dependent to opiates varies from person to person, but it generally takes just a few weeks of daily use. Opiate dependents are so driven to avoid withdrawal symptoms, they stop at almost nothing to obtain more and more opiates, even if that means damaging relationships, losing a job or going to jail.
Opiate withdrawal refers to a wide range of symptoms that occur shortly after discontinuation – for any person physically dependent to opiates. Symptoms of opiate withdrawal are similar to influenza symptoms, but the good news is that opiate withdrawal symptoms can be easily handled with proper treatment.
Early symptoms of opiate withdrawal include:
Late symptoms of Opiate withdrawal include:
Withdrawal symptoms are very uncomfortable but are usually not life threatening. An opiate addict who is experiencing withdrawal symptoms may think they are going to die but they’re much more likely to die from using opiates than they are from coming off opiates.
Two of the most severe threats posed by opiate withdrawal are diarrhea and vomiting, which can lead to dehydration if fluids are not replaced. Water and electrolytes (sodium, chloride, potassium and bicarbonate) are lost through liquid stools, vomit, sweat, urine and breathing. It is important to replenish fluids and maintain adequate hydration during opiate withdrawal.
Opiate withdrawal treatment involves supportive care and pharmacotherapies. Specialized medications have been shown to work better than many other types of opiate withdrawal treatment. Buprenorphine based meds typically shorten the length of opiate addiction treatment.
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