You’ve likely heard about the opioid crisis. You know that, in general, opioids are wreaking havoc on individuals and our society at large. But maybe you’re wondering: What do opioids actually do, anyway? Why can’t people just stop taking opioids? What is opioid detox?
So let’s talk about it.
What Do Opioids Do?
What do Oxycontin, Vicodin, morphine and heroin have in common? They’re all opioids—natural and synthetic substances derived from (or mimicking) the opium poppy. And they all pack a powerful punch. Let’s take a look at what opioids do.
How Opioids Help
Prescription opioids, like the ones listed above (besides heroin), are used to treat pain. You’ll typically find them prescribed for things like back injuries, chronic pain or pain management following surgery.
Opioids work by attaching themselves to receptors throughout the body and sending a message from your brain to the pain that says, “That doesn’t hurt so bad, now does it?”
Opioids also interact with a person’s limbic system, effectively communicating, “Take a deep breath. Relax. Things are looking up!”
There’s no denying that opioids offer welcome relief for people in physical anguish. Unfortunately, there’s a darker side to this pain-reducing drug.
How Opioids Hurt
With given time and intensity, opioids do more than reducing pain and lighten the mood. They begin to send new messages back and forth between the brain and the body.
A person dependent on or addicted to opioids may hear, “You can’t function without this medication. You’ll be in so much pain if you stop taking it. Just think how at ease you are right now. Without opioids, you’ll probably deal with stress and anxiety all the time. How will you work and enjoy your family and friends if your physical and mental health deteriorates?”
For this reason, more than 2 million American adults misuse prescription opioids, with over 800,000 turning to street-available heroin.
And while those opioids get to work sending messages of pain relief and emotional calm through the body, they also tell your respiratory system to slow down, resulting in a half million deaths from opioid misuse between the years 2000 and 2015.
What Happens if a Person Goes through Opioid Detox Alone?
When you learn about accidental overdoses, you might come to the (obvious) conclusion that it’s time to part ways with your opioids. And we applaud you!
Still, read on to learn what you can expect.
When you quit taking opioids—or even decrease your dosage—after a few weeks or more of use, your body will take notice and begin to revolt against you. Once opioid detox symptoms show up, you’re officially in withdrawal.
According to Healthline.com, withdrawal looks like this:
- Returning or increasing aches and pains
- Watery eyes
- Runny nose
- Increased sweat
- Frequent yawning
Opioid detox and withdrawal can also cause vomiting and diarrhea and can be life-threatening if not properly monitored— preferably by a medical professional.
What Does Appropriate Opioid Detox Treatment Look Like?
Thankfully, with opioid detox treatment, a patient can move through the withdrawal period safely and without long-term consequences.
Most people find that symptoms are the worst around day three, with significant improvements just a week into the detox process.
- Loperamide to reduce diarrhea
- Hydroxyzine to ease nausea
- Clonidine to treat severe symptoms
- Suboxone to shorten detox period
- Methadone for long-term maintenance
Here at P.A.T.H., we want to help. Give us a call at 888.622.7809