Does prescription opiate detox have to be painful?
Break Free; Prescription Opiate Detox
For so many of us, the drugs we were originally prescribed for pain relief result in far greater pain than they ever resolved. Seductive, potent, and when prescribed by a doctor, seemingly legitimate; these drugs catch far too many of us in a web of dependency, and once caught, it's very hard to get free.
It Doesn't Matter How You Got Addicted
Because we buy these pills at the pharmacy we forget that these prescription opiates can addict as readily as heroin, and that some have called the eventual detox off of prescription medications even more painful than street corner and illicit opiates of abuse. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter at all how you got addicted, and whether you took a little extra for fun, or whether you just took them for pain…but for too long, the problems you face are one and the same.
Symptoms of Prescription Opiate Detox
Individually experienced symptoms vary greatly depending on the severity of abuse, the duration of the addiction, and even the health and physiology of the individual; but in general, some commonly experienced symptoms of opiate withdrawal are:
- Leg restlessness
Symptoms will generally present within hours of the last dosage, and gain steadily in severity until peaking within a day or so of cessation of use. Symptoms will endure with intensity for a period of three or four days before gradually subsiding, although lingering symptoms of detox may persist for months.
Prescription Opiate Detox Treatment Options
Once you decide to break free from prescription opiate addiction, you have five basic options to choose from
- Go cold turkey on your own
- Slowly taper down
- Enter a medical detox program
- Get an ultra rapid opiate detox
- Enter an opiate substitution program, using methadone or Suboxone
Cold Turkey Detox
The length and intensity of the withdrawal pains will vary depending on the length and intensity of your use. In general, longer acting medications, like methadone, result in a more prolonged but slightly less intense withdrawal period than shorter acting medications like OxyContin. The withdrawal period is very uncomfortable and many people who attempt a cold turkey detox fail to complete their attempt due to the intensity of the withdrawal symptoms.
Also, because people who detox without assistance rarely get any addiction treatment either, the relapse rates back to opiate abuse are very high. Too often, the pains of a cold turkey detox are endured for little long term gain...
Cold turkey prescription opiate detox is an option, but because the success rates are low and the discomfort high, it may not be your best choice.
Historically, opiate addiction was often treated within the criminal justice system, a kind of forced cold turkey detox to abstinence. Relapse rates for this form of treatment near 100%1
Many people who become dependent on prescription opiates are able to minimize withdrawal pains while working towards complete abstinence from opiate by tapering down their daily dosage over a period of weeks or months.
Dose tapering is a very sensible way to break free from opiate dependence, but it is rarely a successful approach for those that are addicted and dependent on opiate drugs.
- People who are opiate dependent have become physically dependent on opiates to function. Anyone who takes opiates, whether legitimately or otherwise, for an extended period of time will become physically dependent.
- People who abuse opiates, whether prescribed legitimately or not, are at high risk for opiate addiction. People who are opiate addicted will crave the drugs and use their medications for reasons other than pain control, the opiates will become a central focus of their life, they will lose control over their use of opiates and continue to use/abuse these medications despite becoming aware of the harms that occur from that use.2
If you are opiate dependent only, and never take your medication in higher doses or with higher frequency than prescribed, then dose tapering is probably a good choice for you, and you should speak with your doctor to make a safe and sensible plan to proceed from.
If you are opiate dependent and opiate addicted, then you may find it difficult or impossible to stick to a tapering regimen. After all, since a hallmark of opiate addiction is a loss of control over how much and how often you use it is unlikely that you will have the control needed to steadily reduce your daily dosage.
Learn more about the difference between opiate addiction and opiate dependence.
Page last updated Jul 01, 2011