The Dangers of Opiate Detoxification

January 26, 2016

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Opiate Detoxification

Opioid dependence can be defined as a medical ailment where an individual is unable to quit using opiates like heroin, morphine, oxycodone, hydromorphone, hydrocodone, codeine, etc. Regardless of whether an addict is aware of the negative consequences or not, they compulsively continue to seek out and use opiates at almost any cost. Opioid dependence is also characterized by tolerance and withdrawal symptoms. Some of these symptoms can be very dangerous when going through opiate detoxification.

Tolerance is the body’s natural adaptation to the influx of psychoactive, or mood-altering, substances in the brain. Hence, more and more of the drug is necessary to achieve the original effects of it. Withdrawal symptoms are the body’s reaction to an addict reducing intake of the drug or quitting it altogether.

In general, it is believed that substance dependence is highly dependent on the user’s genes and a number of environmental factors. Most of the time, opioid dependence results from users seeking to self-medicate an array of preexisting psychopathological disorders, such as depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and schizophrenia.

Opiate Detoxification and Withdrawal Symptoms

Withdrawal symptoms can be described as the body trying to re-calibrate and return to a sober homeostasis. Within the first couple of days of quitting opiates a number of symptoms can already be felt.

These include:

  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Body aches
  • Severe anxiety and agitation
  • Runny nose
  • Red, wet and teary eyes
  • Profuse sweating
  • Frequent yawning

After the first couple of days, the most severe withdrawal symptoms start to set in. Many addicts report that the third day of opiate detoxification can be the most intense.

Symptoms usually include:

  • Severe nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Painful abdominal cramps
  • Diarrhea
  • Shivers and chills
  • Goose bumps
  • Dilated pupils

The most severe withdrawal symptoms are rare, but they include intense body tremors, hallucinations and, sometimes, suicidal thoughts. Moreover, another danger that most people overlook is relapse. When addicts jump right back into using, they usually administer the same dose as they had been prior to their attempt to get clean. If the body has already lost a little tolerance through opiate detoxification, then addicts are at a much higher risk of overdose.

It is extremely hard to die during opiate detoxification, and, most of the time, it is not due to the detoxification alone. In these cases, people report death by asphyxiation from vomit. Other times, addicts going through withdrawal can become extremely dehydrated due to vomiting and diarrhea. Dehydration, in turn, can lead to death by fatal electrolyte levels.

In the end, overdose seems to be the most prominent killer during detoxification. This is why attending an inpatient facility that offers a detoxification program can help greatly reduce the chances of relapsing and overdosing during detoxification.

Benefits of Inpatient Drug Rehabilitation

Because there are so many dangers to going cold turkey alone, inpatient rehab serves as a beneficial alternative. In an inpatient facility, patients will experience structured daily routines with around-the-clock support from a number of health care professionals. There are normally two phases to treatment in rehab facilities, a detoxification phase and a treatment phase.

During the detoxification phase, patients will be provided with a number of methods to make the process of dealing with withdrawal symptoms as comfortable as possible. If the withdrawal symptoms become too severe, the facility’s 24/7 support will always be there to ensure the patient’s safety. With so much support, patients are better able to deal with the intense cravings that can lead to relapse early in their recovery.

Once patients have successfully made it through detoxification, they are then able to begin the treatment portion of the rehabilitation program. Usually the treatment phase can last up to 30 days or more depending on the needs of the individual.

During that time, patients will be completely removed from the environment that they have associated with drug use in the past. Being able to detach oneself from that environment for an extended period of time allows one to build coping mechanisms, self-esteem and support networks. With an arsenal of tools, patients are subsequently better equipped to handle their environment upon their release from the treatment center.

Furthermore, patients are able to work on themselves, build new friendships, formulate an aftercare plan and heal mentally, physically and spiritually during their time in an inpatient drug program. The road to recovery can be long and turbulent, but addicts must make sure to never give up. An inpatient program is only the first step in a lifelong battle. With time, it becomes easier, but it is extremely important to continue care for some time after being released from an inpatient program. With hard work and motivation, anyone can overcome addiction.

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