Table of Contents
What is Withdrawal?
Withdrawal is the presence of uncomfortable and adverse symptoms due to the quitting of a substance that the body has become addicted to or dependent on. Opioid withdrawal symptoms will be unique compared to withdrawals from other substances. A person can form either a physical or psychological dependence on a substance.1
- Physical Dependence: Physical dependence can lead to the body experiencing intense adverse physical symptoms when opiate consumption has stopped.
- Psychological Dependence: Psychological dependence can lead to the person experiencing intense adverse psychological symptoms when opiate consumption has stopped.
What to Expect?
Knowing what to expect during opioid withdrawal can help be prepared for the recovery process.
Opioid withdrawal symptoms include but are not limited to physical symptoms such as:
- High fever
- Muscle cramps
- Runny nose
- Teary eyes
- Fluctuating temperature
Some psychological symptoms that may arise include:
- Intense cravings for the substance
Cravings and Timeline
As mentioned, a person recovering from opioid addiction can expect to feel intense cravings, both physical and psychological, for the substance during the withdrawal period. Moreover, the substance withdrawal timeline varies from person to person. Duration of withdrawal can relate to body size, age, metabolism, substance tolerance, body fat content, liver health, and dosage size.
Withdrawal Without Medical Help
It is not recommended to endure withdrawal without medical help due to the risks involved. The risks involved in opioid seroquel withdrawal can be dangerous, and at times, fatal. The physical and psychological symptoms of withdrawal must be treated by a medical professional for a person to detox from a substance safely.
What is Brain Reward System?
The brain reward system is the circuit within the brain that causes a person to feel pleasure. When this system is activated by foods, people, experiences, or substances, the body can become attached to these experiences.2
Drug Addiction and Brain
Drug addiction occurs when the brain’s reward system becomes accustomed to and dependent on the pleasurable feelings that come with substance use.
The anti-reward system becomes overactive in a person who is addicted to a substance. This system typically activates and can induce stress in the absence of a reward-inducing substance.
Impact on Drug Withdrawal
These rewards systems can lead to a person’s body becoming dependent on drugs and other substances, eventually turning into an addiction. When a person addicted to drugs stops taking them, they will experience withdrawals as the anti-reward system becomes overactive, causing adverse reactions and symptoms within the body.3
Medications Used to Treat Withdrawal of Common Substances
Medication-assisted therapy (MAT) is often used to treat the withdrawal of common substances that tend to be addictive.
- Methadone: Methadone is a slow-acting opioid agonist used as a form of MAT to help the person detox after ceasing heroin consumption. This medication can weaken the effect of heroin.4
- Buprenorphine: Buprenorphine is a partial opioid agonist that can relieve cravings for heroin without providing the same high. This medication can induce withdrawal effects if taken by someone dependent on heroin.4
- Naltrexone: Naltrexone is an opioid antagonist that blocks the effects of opioids. It is non-addictive or sedating but can help prevent opioid relapse.4
- Acamprosate: Acamprosate is a psychological treatment medication that can alleviate adverse symptoms of alcohol withdrawal by working with neurotransmitters in the brain.5
- Disulfiram: Disulfiram is a medication used to reduce cravings for alcohol during the alcohol withdrawal process. It can cause unpleasant side effects when alcohol is consumed, reducing the risk of relapse.
- Clonidine: Clonidine is an antihypertensive medication used to decrease the discomfort and adverse symptoms associated with alcohol withdrawal by blocking chemicals within the brain that cause adverse feelings.
- Modafinil: Modafinil is a synthetic stimulant used to treat symptoms of methamphetamine withdrawal. It reduces the risk of relapse because it is non-addictive while providing stimulating effects that are less harmful than meth.6
- Paroxetine: Paroxetine is an antidepressant medication used to relieve unpleasant symptoms during meth withdrawal, primarily focusing on the psychological symptoms and cravings.7
- Remeron: Remeron is an antidepressant medication used to stop cravings during meth withdrawal and relieve psychological symptoms from withdrawal.8
- Clonazepam: Clonazepam is a minimally addictive benzodiazepine that is used to treat benzo withdrawal by helping someone wean off their dependence rather than stopping suddenly or cold turkey.9
- Diazepam: Diazepam is a low-dosage benzodiazepine that can help a person stop taking more potent benzos. This medication can be addictive so individuals must be sure to taper off rather than quitting cold turkey.9
- Zolpidem: Zolpidem is a benzo receptor agonist medication used to relieve psychological symptoms of benzo withdrawal. It is typically used to treat insomnia, but in some cases, it is used to alleviate symptoms from benzo withdrawal.9
Therapy Used to Treat Withdrawal
- CBT: Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is frequently used to treat withdrawal and support recovery by changing a person’s underlying thought patterns surrounding their addiction.
- DBT: Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) is a therapy used to treat withdrawal by treating personality and mental disorders that may be contributing to substance use disorders.
- Motivational Interviewing: Motivational interviewing is a therapy that teaches a person to make positive decisions surrounding their life while supporting the person through the decision-making process.
Other Withdrawal Treatment Methods
Residential treatment is the most ideal for withdrawal, especially if detox is not complete. In a residential facility, people can receive medical attention if required.
Outpatient treatment can be helpful for people who have already passed the detoxification stage. Typically, outpatient treatment involves therapy and support programs to help sustain a person’s sobriety.
Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is used in severe cases of withdrawal to help a person wean off the substance they are currently addicted to.
Technology that Eases Withdrawal Symptoms
Nowadays, high-tech treatment technology is available to help with easing withdrawal symptoms. Here are some options for people seeking further support after detoxification is complete:
Mobile Health App
Mobile health apps are now available to help people in recovery stay accountable and avoid relapse.
Recovery technology that provides wearable sensors that track a person’s alcohol or substance levels can help keep a person on a path of sobriety.
GPS information is sometimes used in severe cases to monitor the location of a person in recovery to ensure they are not going to high-risk places such as bars.
Ecological Momentary Assessment
Ecological momentary assessment is a repeated assessment of a person’s current experiences as they are occurring. These assessments help gain a further understanding of substance use disorders.
Machine learning is used in addiction studies to analyze patterns of addiction to understand ways to treat substance use disorders.
Biomedical devices and health monitors are used to track a person’s health and progress on their journey to recovery.