What is narcotic drug withdrawal?
Narcotics include drugs such as heroin, codeine, morphine, and methadone. When you are dependent, you need the drug to prevent withdrawal symptoms. Your body’s chemistry has to readjust if you stop taking the drugs. The withdrawal symptoms occur while the body is readjusting.
What is the cause?
Narcotics change your response to sensations. Narcotics also produce mood changes, unconsciousness, or deep sleep. Narcotics are also used to control chronic pain. Continued use of narcotics over a long period of time may cause dependence. You may have to stop taking narcotics because of lack of money, or being in jail, a hospital, or other place where you cannot get the drug. You may also stop taking the drug because you want to break your drug habit. You will have signs of withdrawal after you stop taking the drug. Withdrawal from narcotics usually causes discomfort but not death.
What are the symptoms?
The symptoms of withdrawal from a narcotic drug depend on how severe your addiction is. On a scale of 0 to 4, the symptoms are:
0: anxiety and strong desire for the drug
1: watery eyes, watery discharge from the nose, and yawning
2: above symptoms plus dilated (enlarged) pupils of the eyes, loss of appetite, shakes, hot and cold flashes, and aching of your whole body
3: severe shakes, hot and cold flashes, aching, fever, high blood pressure, fast pulse, and rapid breathing
4: diarrhea, vomiting, low blood pressure, and dehydration
Additional symptoms of withdrawal from severe addiction may include:
- weight loss
- spontaneous ejaculation or orgasm
How is it treated?
Successful treatment of narcotic drug withdrawal is based on the idea that it is best to give you enough drugs to get rid of withdrawal symptoms without causing mental clouding or a “high.”
Treatment with medicines:
Your healthcare provider will begin treating you by giving buprenorphine, methadone, or clonidine at the first signs of withdrawal.
- Buprenorphine is a man-made drug that blocks withdrawal and craving without producing a strong narcotic high. It has a milder withdrawal phase than methadone or heroin. Buprenorphine is given by mouth 12 to 24 hours after you have stopped using heroin or morphine.
- Methadone is a long-acting, man-made drug used during withdrawal treatment for morphine and heroin addicts. Methadone is given by mouth every 4 to 6 hours until your symptoms are gone.
- Naltrexone may be prescribed to block the effects of narcotics and to decrease the craving for narcotics in someone who has withdrawn from narcotics.
- Naloxone is used to block the effects of opioid overdose.
- Suboxone is a combination of buprenorphine and naloxone
- Clonidine may be used to treat addiction to both nicotine and narcotics. Clonidine is generally taken several times a day for 10 to 14 days.
If you are moderately addicted, you can usually withdraw over a period of 5 to 10 days. Your healthcare provider will watch you closely during this treatment.
If you are heavily addicted, you may need a withdrawal maintenance program for several months. Your healthcare provider gradually reduces your dosage during this time.
Your healthcare provider or counselor will help you to develop a treatment plan, He or she will help you develop ways to avoid narcotic use. He or she will also help you identify the stresses in your life which may trigger thoughts of using narcotics. Your counselor will help you to develop healthy ways to manage stress and anxiety. Your healthcare provider may recommend community self-help groups such as Narcotics Anonymous (NA).
Parents, family, and friends may be involved in your treatment.
How long will the effects last?
Withdrawal periods vary from person to person but the worst part usually lasts 7 to 10 days.
How can I take care of myself?
Follow these guidelines:
- Take the full course of treatment prescribed by your healthcare provider.
- Get support. Talk with family and friends. Consider joining a support group in your area.
- Learn to manage stress. Ask for help at home and work when the load is too great to handle. Find ways to relax, for example take up a hobby, listen to music, watch movies, take walks. Try deep breathing exercises when you feel stressed.
- Take care of your physical health. Try to get at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night. Eat a healthy diet. Limit caffeine. If you smoke, quit. Don’t use alcohol or drugs. Exercise according to your healthcare provider’s instructions.
- Avoid situations where people are likely to use alcohol or drugs.
- Check your medicines. To help prevent problems, tell your healthcare provider and pharmacist about all the medicines, natural remedies, vitamins, and other supplements that you take.
- Contact your healthcare provider or therapist if you have any questions or your symptoms seem to be getting worse.
What can be done to help prevent narcotic drug use?
If you are or have been addicted or dependent on a drug, admit that you have a drug problem. Seek professional help. Stay away from drugs except when your healthcare provider prescribes them for a medical problem and works with you to make sure that they are the best treatment for you.
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