Author: Charles Frank

Painkillers and Opioid Use Disorder

painkiller withdrawal symptoms

Your loved one may need assistance during withdrawal, which may involve outpatient, residential, or inpatient options. Withdrawal can be unpleasant and potentially dangerous in some cases. For this reason, you should always talk to your doctor before stopping or reducing your substance use. Diarrhea is another very uncomfortable and potentially dangerous withdrawal symptom. Loss of fluids and electrolytes from diarrhea can cause the heart to beat in an abnormal manner, which can lead to circulatory problems and even heart attack.

With some substances, people are able to stop their use abruptly and manage their withdrawal symptoms on their own. For example, a person may be able to quit caffeine without assistance and cope with the unpleasant symptoms on their own until they pass. When you regularly take a substance for a period of time, your body may build a tolerance and dependence on that substance. Talk with your doctor about treatment programs or support groups in your area.

Opioids include both opiates (drugs derived from the opium poppy, including morphine, codeine, heroin, and opium) and synthetic opioids like hydrocodone, oxycodone, and methadone. Once your opioid taper starts and you’re taking a lower dose of opioids, you start to have a lower tolerance to opioids. If you suddenly take a higher dose of opioids, you’re at an increased risk of overdose.

Your healthcare professional works with you to create an opioid taper schedule that meets your medical needs while keeping risks to your health low. Your healthcare professional may prescribe opioids to help you get through a few days of severe pain after surgery or a serious injury. Opioid medicines also can play an important role in treating pain from cancer. Rarely, opioids may be used to treat long-term pain that’s not caused by cancer when other treatments have not worked.

Not sure if your medication is considered an opioid?

John C. Umhau, MD, MPH, CPE is board-certified in addiction medicine and preventative medicine. For over 20 years Dr. Umhau was a senior clinical investigator at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). You shouldn’t stop taking prescribed opioid medication without consulting your doctor. Nausea and vomiting can be significant symptoms during the withdrawal process.

painkiller withdrawal symptoms

“The key is honesty — honesty with physicians, trusted friends, addiction professionals, but most of all with ourselves,” Schrank says. “If we are telling different doctors different things to get medication, that’s a real red flag,” Schrank says. Maybe you take more than you should or take it more often than your doctor prescribed.

How to Quit Taking Painkillers Responsibly

Additionally, vomiting often occurs during withdrawal, and the potential of vomiting under anesthesia greatly increases the risk of death. Because of this, most doctors hesitate to use this method, as the risks outweigh the potential benefits. Contact a healthcare professional with any additional questions. Mild withdrawal can be treated with acetaminophen (Tylenol), aspirin, or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen. A few examples are ice or heat therapy, physical therapy, massage, acupuncture, and nerve stimulation. It’s important to help protect your family and community from opioid misuse, too.

  1. Opioids attach themselves to opioid receptors in the brain, spinal cord, and gastrointestinal tract.
  2. Additionally, there are things that can be done at home to help alleviate symptoms of withdrawal, such as eating a healthy, well-balanced diet.
  3. People may experience physical, behavioral, and cognitive symptoms when discontinuing substances.
  4. Then, during the following days, there is a peak in the system as the body attempts to rid itself of toxins.
  5. Each is given a score, and they’re added up for a total of up to 47.
  6. Symptoms will usually start within about 12 hours after taking the last dose of an opioid.

There’s some evidence that this method decreases symptoms, but it doesn’t necessarily impact the amount of time spent in withdrawal. To diagnose opioid withdrawal, your primary care doctor will perform a physical examination and ask questions about your symptoms. They may also order urine and blood tests to check for the presence of opioids in your system.

Warning Signs Your Painkiller Use Is a Problem

Withdrawal can be physically and emotionally taxing, and your loved one will need all the support they can get. The body and brain work to maintain a state of balance known as homeostasis. Taking a substance changes that balance, so your body has to take steps to adjust including changing the levels of certain neurotransmitters. These substances act on your brain’s reward system, triggering the release of chemicals. People may recognize symptoms of withdrawal when they stop taking or cut back on a substance. Missing your usual morning cup of coffee, for example, might result in symptoms of caffeine withdrawal such as fatigue, headache, and irritability.

If you’ve successfully tapered off opioid medicine in the past, taking opioids for a brief time — with guidance from your healthcare professional — may be OK. But ask about all nonopioid pain medicine options to treat your pain, including the benefits and risks. You may be tempted to take more opioid medicine than your taper recommends. Do not start taking any opioids you have at home that you received from other health professionals or visits to the emergency room. Extra opioids, alcohol and drugs can increase your risk of an overdose. There are FDA-approved meds that can help treat your OUD, manage withdrawal symptoms, sustain recovery, and prevent relapse.

Drugs & Supplements

They are led by other people who have been dependent on addictive substances. These groups can be a powerful support network for those who find that they aren’t able to quit using opioids despite their best efforts. You may be eager to reach your goal, but your body needs time to adjust to lower levels of opioids, and then to none at all. A step-by-step plan to lower how much opioid medicine you take will help this process go smoothly. This slow tapering also helps ease the discomfort you may feel as you stop taking opioids. During this time, you can practice new skills to manage pain and other long-term symptoms too.

Your goal may be to boost your supply of painkillers so you have as much as you need. But if it’s not in line with what your doctor ordered, that’s reason for concern. One of the most frequent reasons people go to the doctor is for pain relief. Once you complete detox, you can begin your treatment for your addiction, which is the time when the underlying causes and issues that led to your addiction are addressed.

Do you stretch out the time between doses or shrink some doses you take so you can take more later? If you’re trying to control how you take your painkillers instead of following your doctor’s instructions, you may have a problem. In general, the length and severity of opioid drug withdrawal depends on the drug you’re using and the amount you’re taking. Withdrawal happens when a person who has become reliant on a substance discontinues the use of that substance. Many friends and family members of people who use substances want to help but are hesitant for various reasons or do not know where to start.