Opioids are a category of drugs that serve the purpose of suppressing and treating chronic pain. Persistent use of these drugs can lead to dependence. In addition, they may come with adverse side effects, especially for long term users or for those who tend to increase the dosage with no medical cause behind it. Some of the opioid drugs include codeine, Vicodin, Dilaudid, Percocet, Demerol, and morphine just to mention but a few.
Long-term users will experience withdrawal signs in the event they stop using the drug(s) mentioned. With the help of a doctor, you will be able to stop taking these medications. How long it takes is dependent on other factors. In this, getting off opioids is different for under different circumstances.
Sudden stop of the medication will put you at risk of experiencing withdrawal symptoms, which affect you negatively. People who have taken opioids for more than a few weeks need to stop but they have to do it gradually/ slowly. This ensures that they remain safe and healthy.
When to Stop Using Opioid Medication
Opioid use is legal and is given as a prescription drug by professional health providers. They are effective to treat chronic pain despite the fears that come with its consumption. These fears include high rates of abuse, an addiction, and accidental overdose. Doctors will prescribe opioids to help get through severe pain in cases of surgery or after a traumatic injury in an accident.
Individuals who have taken the drug for two weeks or less can simply stop taking the drug without any side effects or with minimal effects. On the other hand, if you have been taking opioids for more than two weeks, you need to stop consumption. This will help to prevent the rise of serious side effects and an addiction or an overdose. The following signs indicate that you need to be off opioids.
• Reduced pain relief from the usual dose of medication (you are developing a tolerance)
If you feel that your normal dose of prescription is not providing the same effect, you are developing a tolerance of the drug. This means that your body is demanding more as the prescription is not delivering the desired effect.
• Serious side effect
If you notice that your continued drug use is leading to serious side effects, you need to stop intake. Some of these effects may include nausea, persistent vomiting, and diarrhea. If you experience other effects noted to occur because of the opioids, you need to get off opioids.
• The need to increase your dose
If all you can push for is an increase of the drug dosage after the time your prescription elapses, your body is showing signs you need to stop taking the drug in question.
Under normal circumstances, your doctor will help to develop a withdrawal plan commonly referred to as a taper. Following the taper to its later is important if you are going to see positive results.
Dangers of Opioids
Opioids provide pleasurable effects that help people in chronic and severe pain to get through the pain. However, you will also notice other side effects. Depending on the dosage you are taking and on how long you intend using them, the side effects will vary from one person to another. The following are some common side effects.
• Increased tolerance to pain
Your body has the ability to naturally fight pain. However, it cannot suppress the pain to the levels that will leave you comfortable.
Due to cases of nausea, you are likely to experience drowsiness because the brain functions slowly due to a low supply of oxygen.
Itching arises from psychological and mental disorders where the individual feels like there are parasites crawling on their skin. Mental treatment can solve this effect.
• Watery and bulging eyes
This trait is evident especially for individuals who smoke the drug. The veins pop and when the urge is not satisfied, the eyes become watery.
Due to a lack of sufficient supply of oxygen to the right body organs, you will feel nauseated.
• Psychological dependence
Your brains stops to produce dopamine which is the natural pain reliever and thus pushing you to depend the drug as its main source of relieving pain.
• Slowed breathing and a slower heart rate
This will happen because crystal meth strains the functionality of the heart. The heart ages and it cannot perform its duty as expected.
• Slowed brain activity
The brain begins to function slowly and think slowly thus leading to the inability of the individual to make the right decision
• Pregnant women may experience premature birth, stillbirth, or a breech delivery.
Crystal meth effects are passed on even to the unborn making it difficult for normal deliveries as well as normal child growth.
• Persistent vomiting
Options to Get off Opioids
Withdrawal symptoms can be too much to handle not just for the patient but also for those surrounding them. This said, the following are some of the recommended ways to get off opioids.
• Therapeutic Communities
This method comes with a high rate of success. These therapeutic communities are residential facilities that encourage people to help themselves. This type of program makes it a personal endeavor for the patient to fight withdrawal symptoms. This is because they believe that drug use especially in cases where pain is a major concern is a result of a culmination of personal, psychological problem as opposed to treating a disease.
This tactic will introduce a combination of supportive and confrontational techniques. This will allow people to be aware of where their strength lies and with the help of a larger community, they are able to re-enter the society drug-free.
These communities are highly structured and are detailed to deliver success. Commonly people who come here have failed in other minor ways of getting off these drugs. The drawback people indicate on this method is that it requires both physical and psychological demands. For people who cannot stand the demand, they may end up dropping out.
This treatment for opioid use involves the use of four buprenorphine rods implanted under the skin. It is placed in the inner arm. Though this is a relatively new method in the market with its use starting in the year 2016, it shows a high rate of success. The implants only last for six months.
Advantages of probuphine include a short period of treatment. Since they last only for six months, many patients are willing to try it out and stick to it. You will also not hear of cases where patients are selling their medications or misusing them. The drug also lowers positive signs when a urine test is performed.
It also comes with drawbacks. One such drawback is the possibility of implant migration, protruding, or even being ejected from the body. However, these risks are low.
These rods come with about 8mg dose. The major drawback that makes many stay away from tis treatment is its attached cost. To help counter the cost problem, some insurance companies are going to cover it.
• Ultra-rapid Opioid Detoxification
The detox process is not a treatment in its own and it must be accompanied by another method of treatment. Ultra rapid opioid detoxification can however be a successful measure on its own.
This method works by sedating the patient for two days with general anesthesia with an inclusion of Naltrexone and an opioid antagonist. This medication seeks to speed up the withdrawal symptoms. In addition, the patient will skip most of the uncomfortable side effects.
Depending on your doctor, you can choose to combine this method of treatment. The cost of this treatment is rather high as opposed to taking pills. It is still a relatively effective method.
Buprenorphine is a partial method of treatment. This means that it acts on similar receptors in the brain like heroin and other prescription narcotics. However, the added advantage is that they do not produce the relating high effects or abusive effects.
Using this drug comes with some side effects, which an individual can retain under control. These include:
> Difficulty in sleeping
> Fever and irritability
> Muscle aches
> Cases of constipation
> Nausea and vomiting
Despite the above side effects, it is effective in helping to decrease withdrawal symptoms and opioid craving.
The use of buprenorphine is effective and safe even for babies who are born to opioid-dependent mothers. Another advantage of this drug is its less interaction rate to other medications as compared to other treatment options such as methadone. This makes it ideal for use with patients who are under medication for HIV.
• Contingency Management (CM)
Contingency management does not function as a means of treatment on its own but it is a great way of ensuring that patients do not go back to using the opioids. CM rewards people for providing negative blood screens.
The rewards include vouchers and/or a chance to win cash prizes. The vouchers allow users to redeem them for prizes that promote a drug free lifestyle. The rewards start small but overtime, they grow not only in number but also in their value.
The key objective is to promote sobriety as well as ensure that people stick to their clinic attendance as required. The results lead to better medication-assisted treatment. The focus remains on psychological and social aspects of treatment.
• Methadone Maintenance
Methadone is an opiate drug and is similar to other opioids but at the same time, it is used as a treatment because it relieves pain while at the same time eliminating the harmful side effects.
However, this does not mean that it is a clean effect less drug. It comes with its own side effects. The added advantage is that its effects are easily controllable and they are not adverse. The following is a list of methadone side effects.
> Changes in mood
> A sore tongue and a dry mouth
> Weight gain
> Sleep problems
> Stomach pains
> Urinating troubles
> Blurred and impaired vision
According to statistics, a year of using methadone as prescribed will lower opioid use by more than 54%. This will in turn positively affect other aspects of your life such as employment and social aspect of life. Expectant mothers can safely use methadone to treat opioid use disorders.
• Inpatient Treatment
Inpatient treatment means that the patient is receiving treatment in a hospital. The entire process operates on undergoing through a detoxification process under the supervision of a medical team. The duration this process will take will differ from one person to another.
It is dependent on how long the individual has been taking the drug as well as on the willingness of the individual to cooperate. It may take a few days to a few weeks of treatment. The individuals who are recommended for this treatment include:
> Using opioids intravenously
> Use of other substances when still using opioids
> Having other medical illnesses
> Having psychiatric illnesses
> Individuals who have failed at outpatient treatment
Some of the inpatient programs include therapy sessions in addition to the use of medication. The therapy based sessions focus on counseling as well as behavioral training. They may last about four to twelve weeks on average. In cases of denial and intense addictions, they may last longer.
They also offer multimodal programs. These programs offer a variety of treatment options that when combined produce better results. The included services and techniques for better recovery are medical care, job training, family therapy, group and individual psychotherapy, coping techniques, and drug education.
Mothers may not benefit from inpatient treatment options as their children will be unattended. This type of program does not offer childcare benefits. After leaving the facility, aftercare is important. During this period, patients are more likely to relapse thus the need for aftercare.
• Narcotics Anonymous
Narcotics Anonymous (NA) is a program that seeks to educate individuals on the use of the drug and the benefits of abstaining from more use of the drug. A 12-step program helps individuals to conform to the following ideas.
> Willpower alone will not remedy the situation
> Active involvement is NA is important
> It recommends surrendering to a higher power for better results
> Substance use disorders are chronic
> The individual has no control over the “diseases”
Its foundation is based on religious aspects. This makes it strict and the methods of abstinence. It encouraged people to stay longer in the program because the longer people stayed, the more they abstained, and this prevented a relapse.
You can decide how many meetings in a week are best for you. For better results, it is recommended is three or four meetings in a week. The more meetings you attend, the more likely you are to recover.
• Outpatient Treatment Programs
Outpatient treatment programs require dedication, persistence, and patience. These programs will vary despite having similar objectives. They are cheaper as compared to inpatient programs.
They operate by educating and counseling patients. They are designed to suit the needs and preferences of individuals who have families and jobs. They are ideal because they create a balance between their treatment and other aspects of life. They educate people on the effects of drugs.
Factors to Consider During Treatment
Success rate will vary from one treatment option to another. In addition, the success rate will differ depending on the vulnerability of the individual. The following are some key factors to consider when undergoing treatment.
• Treatment duration varies
The time it takes to treat a patient will differ from another even when they are abusing a similar opioid drug. People should not think that since they are taking longer to heal that the treatment is not working for them. Different people have varying drug tolerance and this plays a key role in how long one can undergo treatment.
• Drug management is dependent on other factors
Even after stopping opioid use, there is also the stage where one has to prevent a relapse. The factors that will determine drug management will include:
> The side effects of the different remedial drugs
> External support from other people
> Willingness of a person to remain clean
• The type of opioid abuse does not determine the type of treatment
The above possible treatments are not dependent on an opioid drug. You will therefore, find different opioid drugs abusers under a similar treatment program. The most important aspect is the acceptance that the person wants to recover.
• Social support is important
As much as an individual is willing to seek help to get off opioids, social support from his or her loved ones plays a major role in the effectiveness of the treatment. The support makes it easier for the patient to follow the recommended prescription and counseling processes.
• Cases of addiction take longer to treat
Opioid drugs are addictive with long-term use. This makes people dependent on the drug and the body cannot sustain little pain. This pushes individual to constantly rely on opioid abuse. Due to the intensity of the abuse, it will take longer for the individual to reap benefits of the treatment methods above. Cases of addiction tend to show higher chances of a relapse.
• Withdrawal symptoms vary
The withdrawal symptoms of individuals vary from one person to another. Some signs are mild while other intense. Despite the variance of symptoms, the key is never to give up. Hey may be a throwback but they are a necessarily effect. Sometimes, even the medication may come with some unpleasant side effects.
• Voluntary treatment
You can barely force anyone to get off opioids. All the above ways of getting off opioids require that the patient accept the situation and voluntarily participate in treatment. The treatment options vary and counseling plays a great role in a majority of them. Involuntary counseling will not bear positive fruits because they are not willing to listen. If they cannot listen, they cannot employ any recovery strategies.
Identifying that you need to get off Opioids
Before people can consider getting off opioids, they must accept that they have a problem. They must also accept that the drug is causing their problem. You must then identify the signs and symptoms that indicate an addiction while comparing to changes around you. You also have the option of listening to other people’s opinions of you. The doctor who is subscribing the opioid drug will also know when the drug is becoming addictive and insist that you get off them. . The following are signs that indicate an opioid addiction.
• If you start to continuously increase your dosage for the drug you are taking with the feeling that it is not enough
• If you increase, your intake to more than your doctor is prescribing.
• You experience an unsuccessful attempt to get off the drug even when you no longer feel excessive pain
• If you feel the need to obtain more without a prescription
• If you experience negative side effects to using the drug
If you experience one or more of the above effects, it is important that you seek help. It is next to impossible to treat yourself with the aim of getting off opioids. The best option is to involve others especially medical aid and group counseling for better success rates. You will retain opioid intake as opposed to getting off it if you choose self-treatment.
Getting off opioids is not easy but people can incorporate some safe methods for recovery. These methods will help them to get through the withdrawal process. The above processes and remedies can be used on their own as a single entity or they can be combined.
The above methods are strictly reliant on external help. In this, you cannot simply get off opioids without help. Whether you choose inpatient or outpatient related remedies, you need to strictly abide by the provided rules and regulations.
The success rate of every remedy is determined by how well the individual adjusts and accepts treatment. In addition, treatment should be voluntary.