Painkilling drugs are generally safe when taken for a short time as prescribed by a doctor. But besides helping to ease your pain, they also give you a feeling of comfort and euphoria. Each of those effects can lead a person to misuse the drug in a way that wasn’t intended.
While painkiller abuse isn’t new, the opioid epidemic puts a new light on the problem. Moreover, overdoses claim the lives of tens of thousands each year. What can help is recognizing painkiller withdrawal symptoms when you see them.
You must understand that not everyone gets every potential symptom of withdrawal. In fact, think of it as someone with the flu. Most flu sufferers get a fever, body aches, and a sore throat, but not everyone vomits or gets headaches.
For example, some of the early symptoms of painkiller withdrawal will include:
- Poor appetite
- Muscle aches
- Quick temper
- Trouble sleeping
Later symptoms of painkiller withdrawal that are more intense and might necessitate hospitalization include:
- Abdominal cramping
- Dilated pupils
Some of the symptoms you can’t usually see, but a person withdrawing might complain about openly. Someone in withdrawal also experiences intense drug cravings, but probably won’t announce that fact. If you see one or two of these symptoms, don’t assume that you are recognizing painkiller withdrawal symptoms. However, the thing you should watch for is a large number of these symptoms showing up all at once.
Of course, recognizing painkiller withdrawal symptoms is only the first step. Someone experiencing withdrawal can act in unpredictable or irrational ways in a bid to find more painkillers. Many people trying to quit using the drug will go back to it rather than face the withdrawal symptoms.
Complications of Painkiller Withdrawal
Complications from withdrawal can be dangerous. Complications that might arise are the reasons that you or your loved one should never attempt going “cold turkey” without any medical supervision. Withdrawal from painkillers is painful but not life-threatening as long as it is done correctly.
Complications from painkiller withdrawal that might occur are:
- Aspiration may occur as a result of vomiting and breathing the stomach contents into the lungs. This may lead to a lung infection, choking, or pneumonia (aspiration pneumonia).
- Vomiting and diarrhea can cause dehydration and chemical disturbances in the body. The loss of fluids and electrolytes can cause the heart to beat abnormally, which then causes circulatory problems.
- Relapse is the biggest danger. When an individual quits taking pain killers, the process of withdrawal reduces the person’s tolerance for the drug. Many people think they can go back to the same dosage they were using when they quit. If they find more drugs, they might accidentally overdose as they try to end the withdrawal.
What you face are two different problems. Specifically, there is the withdrawal itself and also the underlying addiction. Both problems require professional help. Furthermore, a detox program can help someone get through withdrawal. Medical professionals can provide medications that ease the symptoms.
Medications typically used for painkiller detox include:
- Methadone—This relieves withdrawal symptoms and helps with detox. It is also sometimes used as a long-term maintenance medicine and may be decreased slowly.
- Buprenorphine (Subutex)—Used to treat withdrawal from opiates, it can shorten the length of detoxification and may be used for long-term maintenance like methadone. It may be combined with Naloxone to prevent dependence and misuse.
- Clonidine—Clonidine is used to help reduce the anxiety, agitation, muscle aches, sweating, and cramping associated with withdrawal. It doesn’t help reduce cravings.
- Naltrexone—Helps to prevent relapse. It is taken as an injection or a pill. It can cause severe withdrawal if taken while opioids are still in your system.
Timeline for Withdrawal
Withdrawal symptoms begin (short-acting opioids): 6 to 12 hours after last use.
Most patients are initially treated with short-acting opioids, but severe unremitting pain may require transitioning to long-acting opioids.
Withdrawal symptoms begin (long-acting opioids: 30 hours after last use.
Withdrawal symptoms peak: 72 hours after last use.
Withdrawal symptoms begin to fade out: Up to 10 days after last use.
Helping Someone Get Help
Your friend or loved one must want help. In fact, knowing help is out there is only part of the solution. You can’t force them into any rehab program, but you can attempt an intervention. The first step is a one-on-one conversation.
As far as possible, avoid arguments. Just express your concerns about their drug use, the benefits of getting help, and your willingness to support their recovery. If they recognize the problem and want to stop, that conversation can help them decide. However, don’t lose hope if they deny the problem or reject your offer of help. A person with addiction usually can’t see it or refuses to acknowledge it. A more focused approach is necessary.
Intervention for Addiction
An intervention is a carefully planned process that can be done by family and friends. You will act in consultation with a doctor or a professional drug and alcohol counselor, or directed by an intervention professional (interventionist).
The next step is a more formal group intervention. You will need to join with other friends and family members. Present your loved one with a structured way to make changes before things get worse. It might motivate him to accept help. You can organize this intervention on your own, but it’s a tricky business. Focus on the benefits of getting help and your willingness to support their recovery.
You may prefer to bring in a professional interventionist. Specifically, these are experts on staging and managing an intervention. They take the lead during the process.
Using a professional has advantages. If a neutral person leads the discussion, it can feel less like an attack. Moreover, the professional can also help people prepare statements. That goes a long way toward avoiding off-topic anger.
During the intervention, the participants gather together to confront the person about the consequences of his addiction and ask him to accept treatment. An intervention must be carefully planned. A poorly planned intervention can make the situation worse if the loved one feels attacked.
Addiction Treatment and Therapy for Painkillers
The substance abuse programs at rehab clinics offer the best chance of getting the addiction under control. There are rehab programs specifically designed for treating addiction to prescription painkillers. They use several therapies that help people understand what drives their addiction and better coping mechanism.
For example, some of those therapies for painkiller addiction include:
Medication-Assisted Therapy—This includes medication, counseling, and behavioral therapy. It is a “whole patient” approach to treatment.
Individual therapy—Setting goals, discussing setbacks, and behavioral therapies such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)—CBT is an effective treatment for opioid use disorder (OUD). It is also an effective treatment for other psychiatric disorders such as anxiety, depression, and trauma. These are common co-occurring disorders with OUD. Behavioral therapy can also help you manage cravings, build healthy habits and thoughts, and avoid triggers that might cause a relapse.
Group counseling—Participation in group sessions help show the person that they are not alone with their issues. This helps people learn new strategies for handling situations that might arise.
Family counseling—Partners, spouses, and any other family members are included in this. It can help repair the damaged relationships that often occur between an addicted individual and those close to him.
Art therapy—Art therapy is conducted by a professional art therapist and is used to improve cognitive and sensorimotor functions. It also improves self-esteem and self-awareness.
Meditation—Mindful meditation helps the person mentally envision and tackle individual goals, ease social anxiety, and frees the person to fully consider decisions before making them. This practice brings a feeling of self-esteem and relaxation.
Discussions about how a person’s drug use hurt others happen during and after rehab. For example, most rehab programs encourage participants to join a 12-step program.
Managing Withdrawal At Crest View Recovery Center
Crest View Recovery Center offers a prescription drug abuse treatment program. Prescription pain killer misuse is a common problem. In 2015 about 2 million Americans had substance abuse disorders connected to opioid medications.
We work with a partner detox center so you can transition seamlessly from detox into rehab. We have designed our substance abuse programs to encourage overall health and wellness. You will receive an individualized treatment plan. One program won’t work for every person.
Because recovery is an ongoing process, and relapse is a possibility with any chronic disease, individuals who graduate from our programs can join our alumni program. This allows those in recovery to maintain helpful peer relationships and reduce the chance of a relapse.
If someone in your life abuses prescription drugs, you can help them. Talk with them about getting help from a quality drug rehab center. For more information about rehab programs, contact Crest View Recovery Center today.