Painkiller Withdrawal: Symptoms and Detox
Prescription painkiller misuse remains an ongoing problem in the United States. In recent years, drug overdose rates have continued to climb. The CDC reported that overdoses were responsible for killing almost 50,000 people in 2017 alone. 36% of those deaths involved prescription painkillers.
Painkillers belong to the class of opioids. Common painkillers include morphine, fentanyl, tramadol, oxycodone, and hydrocodone. All painkillers have the potential for misuse.
Chronic painkiller use can lead to physical dependence. That means when people stop taking the painkiller, they experience withdrawal symptoms. Depending on the quantity of painkillers and the length of time used, these withdrawal symptoms can range from somewhat distressing to incredibly uncomfortable.
Why Does Painkiller Withdrawal Occur?
Our bodies naturally produce opioids. Synthetic opioids attach to these same opioid receptors. But, they also provide an additional sense of pleasure euphoria.
Dependence on painkillers can cause significant structural damage in the brain. The flood of these additional neurotransmitters can halt the body from producing its own opioids. Drug withdrawal, therefore, can occur in response to the lack of these chemicals.
Stages of Opiate Painkiller Withdrawal
Withdrawal is a temporary process. However, it can feel exhausting both physically and mentally. For this reason, the thought of withdrawal tends to evoke feelings of fear and dread.
The worst symptoms tend to last only a few days. However, it is important to understand the timeline of symptoms to anticipate what to expect.
Early Symptoms of Painkiller Withdrawal
Early withdrawal symptoms may emerge between 6-12 hours for short-acting painkillers. For longer-acting painkillers, it can take 30 hours. The earliest symptoms tend to be psychological. Most people experience some heightened anxiety and irritability. They may also experience insomnia.
Other early withdrawal symptoms include:
- Tearing up
- Agitation and frustration
- Muscle spasms and aches
- Racing heart
- Fever-like symptoms (runny nose, sweating, hot-and-cold flashes)
- Excessive yawning
These symptoms peak within 24-72 hours after the last dose. Because the symptoms can be so uncomfortable, opioid cravings also tend to escalate at this time.
Later Symptoms of Painkiller Withdrawal
Starting around day 2-3 of painkiller withdrawal, the individual will start experiencing the later withdrawal symptoms. These include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Goosebumps and hot-cold flashes
- Severe depression
- Stomach cramps and body aches
These symptoms last just a few days and typically subside after one week. Cravings also tend to be elevated at this time.
What does Narcotic Painkiller Withdrawal Feel Like?
Withdrawal varies from person to person. The process can depend on several factors including:
- Longevity of painkiller use
- Medical and psychological health
- Presence of other substances
- Prior history of detox episodes
Typically, when withdrawing cold-turkey, the process can feel very painful and uncomfortable. These harsh conditions lead many people to relapse. It’s only normal to want to avoid adverse reactions, and the vicious cycle continues.
Detox medication can relieve some of these distressing symptoms. Today, many doctors prescribe safe medications that can ease uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms.
Adrenergic drugs like propranolol and clonidine help reduce the high blood pressure, agitation, and anxiety often associated with detox. Doctors may prescribe other medications to treat additional symptoms related to insomnia, nausea, and mood disturbances.
Opiate Painkiller Detox
Detox provides medical support and evaluation for people withdrawing from opioids. You’ll receive 24/7 monitoring and care during your stay.
Detox has numerous benefits. First, you’re removed from your familiar environment. It can be tough to quit painkillers if you are around other people who are using them. It can also be challenging to stop when you are at home if you used there regularly.
Moreover, detox facilities are fully-staffed with medical and psychiatric professionals. Our team will work with you to ensure that you have a comfortable experience. They will get you the help you need should any serious concerns arise.
Our detox staff can also help prepare you for entering the appropriate substance abuse treatment. Detox alone does not provide the tools and resources for sobriety from painkillers. Instead, it is a starting point- the first stepping stone towards a new life.
Can I Detox From Painkillers At Home?
In a short answer, yes. Many people can and do detox from painkillers at home. Due to work or family constraints, some people do not have a viable option to leave.
That said, the majority of medical professionals strongly advise against this strategy. Detox is a complex experience. You want to be in good hands during this time.
If you are using additional substances (such as benzodiazepines or alcohol), detoxing cold-turkey could be dangerous. In some cases, it can be fatal. If you detox at home, you won’t have access to the routine monitoring and evaluation provided at medical facilities.
Furthermore, many people with substance use problems also experience mental health issues. The detox process can exacerbate mental health symptoms. You may feel more depressed or anxious. You may even experience suicidal or psychotic thoughts. At a detox facility, you’ll receive the appropriate care and resources to monitor such symptoms.
Finally, detox provides a sense of structure and support during this challenging time. Going at it alone can be hard. By yourself, you may not have the accountability you need to stay sober. This is not the case in a facility Rest assured that your detox staff- and peers- will be cheering on your success from start to finish.
Choose a better life. Choose recovery.