Prescription drug addiction -  Part 4: Detoxing from prescription painkillers

Prescription drug addiction – Part 4: Detoxing from prescription painkillers

Prescription painkillers, particularly opioids, are the most abused prescription drugs in the United States due to the increased practice of self-medication for nonmedical uses. According to the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), out of the total 20.5 million Americans in the age group of 12 and above having a substance use disorder in 2015, two million had an addiction to prescription painkillers and 591,000 had a heroin addiction. Opioids include heroin and pain relievers, such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine, morphine, fentanyl, etc.

Looking at the severity of opioid abuse, especially among youngsters, there is a need to understand the problem and address it by resorting to appropriate treatment measures. In the first three articles of this series “Prescription drug addiction,” some of the relevant topics like most addictive prescription drugs, prevention strategies for both clinicians and patients, and treatment options were discussed in detail.

To end the discussion, the last article of this series focuses on opioid detox techniques. Due to increase in opioid addiction, it has become a major concern for both government and healthcare authorities. Consequently, it has become important more than ever to learn about the detox techniques.

Understanding uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms

Overall, opioids not only change the brain chemistry, but also often make regular abusers dependent on them to feel the euphoric effects. Due to the increased dependency on opioids, people often witness withdrawal symptoms within eight to 30 hours after the last dose.

The time required to have these symptoms depend on the type of drug abused. Compared to a short-acting opioid like Vicodin, a long-acting opioid like methadone takes more time to cause withdrawal symptoms as it stays in the body for a long time.

Though the withdrawal symptoms are generally not life-threatening, they are very uncomfortable to deal with. Besides painful physical withdrawal symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, agitation, sweating, muscle aches, etc., one has to also grapple with various psychological symptoms, such as depression, anxiety, insomnia, restlessness, etc.

Specialized detox programs better than other methods

As the abrupt stopping of prescription painkillers, popularly known as cold turkey, increases the chances of risks and relapse, it is not recommended by the treatment facilities. Even home-based detox techniques are not recommended due to their ineffectiveness.

The best method to get rid of the opioid from the bloodstream is through a medically assisted detox offered by specialized treatment centers. These centers offer a variety of detox programs and the right one usually depends on the type of drug abused, dependency level, abuse method, duration of abuse and personal circumstances. After performing a full-fledged assessment of the patient, the best treatment option for optimum success is determined.

The most common detox services offered by treatment facilities may include the following:

  • Inpatient detox, or residential treatment program, is recommended for the patients with severe withdrawal symptoms. It includes 24/7 monitoring and medical supervision.
  • Medically assisted inpatient or outpatient methods provide treatment using pharmaceuticals.
  • Sub-acute detox, including both inpatient and outpatient options, is good for medically fit patients committed to recovery.
  • Mild sufferers may opt for an outpatient detox service that includes medications.
  • Holistic approaches, including yoga, meditation, etc., are also sometimes offered.

Having a longer long-life and a ceiling effect, buprenorphine products (Suboxone and Subutex) are used during detox from prescription painkillers to stop effects of a drug after a certain amount. This enables to maintain a balance in the system and reduce the chances of abuse. Suboxone includes naloxone, which blocks other opioids from causing any effects.

Recovery road map

As opioids can be dangerous for the abusers, an opioid detox administered clinically is recommended for them. It may help them in coming back to a normal drug-free life. If you or anyone you know has an opioid addiction, contact the Florida Prescription Addiction Helpline. You can chat online or call us at our 24/7 helpline number 866-292-3211 to know more about the drug treatment centers in Florida.

Read other articles of the series “Prescription drug addiction”:

Part 1: The most addictive prescription drugs

Part 2: Preventing misuse through collaborative efforts of clinicians, pharmacists and patients

Part 3:  How to treat dependence on opioids

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