Over 2 million people aged 12 and older were diagnosed with an opioid use disorder (OUD) in the United States, comprising 0.7 percent of the population. OUD is a medical diagnosis given to those who suffer serious impairment or distress due to the continuous use of opioids. While other definitions like opioid addiction do exist, OUD is more commonly accepted among healthcare professionals.
OUD diagnosis is based on specific criteria, ranging from unsuccessful attempts to reduce or stop opioid use to social or family problems. People with the disorder may report having trouble meeting obligations at work, school, or home. However, as OUD is an extensive disorder, healthcare specialists assess many more signs and symptoms to provide proper diagnosis and treatment.
What are Opioids?
Opioids are a powerful substance that can reduce the pain preceptors in the brain and come in a variety of forms including prescription medications (such as oxycontin, hydrocodine, fentanyl, etc.), illegal drugs (such as heroin), illicit substances (including fentanyl analogs), natural plants like opium poppy, and man made.
In 2018, misuse of opioids occurred in approximately 10.3 million people ages 12 or older. Over time, regular use of opioids causes physical dependence and tolerance. While heavy usage for a few weeks can result in addiction. When a person wants to stop taking opioids suddenly, it can be result in opioid withdraw symptoms including:
- Aching muscles
- Distress or agitation
- Inability to sleep (insomnia)
- Cold flashes with goosebumps
- Stomach cramps
- Uncontrollable leg movement
Depending on the severity of the addiction, overall health, frequency of use, and type of drug, opiate withdrawal symptoms will lengthen or shorten time, For short-acting opioids like heroin and oxycodone, symptoms may appear within 12 hours and peak within 24 to 48 hours. Symptoms then tend to subside in 3 to 5 days. However, for long-acting opioids like methadone, symptoms may arise within 30 hours since the opioid was last taken and not disappear until 10 days have passed.
Opioid Detoxification Process
The goal of complete detoxification is to rid the body of opioids. While detox may be short-lasting, from a few days to a couple of weeks, it is the beginning step on a path to recovery and additional treatments.
Those going through withdrawal may mistakenly believe that their pain is the same as the original pain that led to the use of opioids. This type of experience is known as the ‘rebound effect,’ in which symptoms that were either absent or controlled due to medication reappear because of a lack thereof.
Opioid withdrawal is rarely life-threatening; however, it is recommended to consult a healthcare professional to structure the most suitable approach to pain or discomfort management during that period. Sudden discontinuation of the drug or “going cold turkey” could ultimately lead to relapse in opioid use and even an unintentional overdose.
In our next article, we will discuss the types of opioid detox medications. For more information or to get help with an opioid and other addiction, contact an addiction specialist nearest you or visit www.addictiongroup.org
This article features excerpts from the Addiction Group website and was reprinted with their permission.