Recovering The SelfA Journal of Hope and Healing


Completely Quitting an Opiate Addiction

by William Weiss

Opiate drugs are typically prescribed to people as a means of treating some form of acute pain. The natural effects that opiates have of treating pain are what make them more dangerous as a possible addictive substance. As a person continues to take an opiate, the effectiveness will start to wane. Once the drug loses its effectiveness, people tend to take a higher dosage to account for this change. This heightens the possibility that an addiction develops. There are many ways to quit an addiction but only one or two methods of doing so safely.

Long Term Effects of Opiates

Opiate usage has a wide range of effects on the body, especially when this usage has turned to addiction. While the basic side effects can be relatively severe, it’s the long-term effects of opiate abuse that are among the most serious. Many of these adverse effects center around the abdominal area. These include everything from nausea and vomiting to bloating and constipation. Tolerance to the drug and dependence are also common over time.

Once this occurs, quitting becomes much more difficult and always comes with withdrawal effects. Some of the most serious long-term effects associated with opiate abuse and addiction include liver damage and brain damage. The brain damage typically results from respiratory damage. If the drug is injected instead of being consumed the standard way, additional long-term effects include a wide array of heart problems, such as heart infections and pulmonary embolisms.

What Happens When Ceasing Usage of Opiates

When you attempt to quite taking opiates, there’s a lot that can happen, especially depending on the method you use to quit. The ease at which a person can stop taking opiates all depends on how severe their usage is. When a person becomes tolerant to the drug in question, the standard dosage won’t reduce the pain as much as it once did. The user will then feel the need to take more in order to obtain the same effects as they once did. One of the common mistakes people make at this point is to believe that the pain is getting worse. They rationalize that a higher dosage will be safe and start to take more in order to effectively reduce the pain.

If tolerance of the drug continues, physical dependence on opiates is sure to follow. This occurs when the body changes and now reacts according to whether or not opiates are in the system. When taking opiates at a regular dosage, the body will react properly. However, when stopping usage for even a little while, the onset of withdrawal will occur. Addiction will eventually take its place. Addiction is a chronic disease within the brain due to a rewiring of the brain. This rewiring ensures that the brain, along with the body, cannot react properly when the drug is not in the system. During this phase, the withdrawal effects can be much more severe. Opiates will be a craving at this point.

Even at the tolerance phase, mild withdrawal symptoms may occur. Once this turns into physical dependence and addiction, these symptoms will become more severe. At this point, trying to stop taking opiates cold turkey or without at least tapering off dosage provides you with a very high risk of relapse. When attempting to quite an opiate addiction, the withdrawal symptoms will be quite severe and painful, which will make you crave opiates more in order to make the pain stop. Because of these issues, it’s heavily recommended that you focus on quitting an opiate addiction the right way.

Opiate Withdrawal Timeline

The opiate withdrawal timeline is similar whether you’ve become dependent on opiates or are completely addicted. Either way, the onset of withdrawal symptoms typically occurs almost immediately after you try to stop taking them. The first withdrawal effects that you will likely encounter include:

  • Muscle aches
  • Agitation
  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety
  • Sweating
  • Excessive yawning
  • Runny nose

These symptoms will continue for quite some time, becoming increasingly bothersome. Once your withdrawal gets into its later stages, usually around a week after they’ve started, additional effects will occur and can last for a few days until dissipating entirely. These symptoms include:

  • Dilated pupils
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting

You’ll also experience a strong craving of the drug which will last throughout the entirety of the withdrawal process, likely intensifying as the withdrawal phase comes to a close.

How to Safely Quit an Opiate Addiction For Good

Withdrawal is always going to occur when you attempt to quit an opiate addiction. However, there are safe and effective methods of doing so that will not only reduce the pain of those withdrawal symptoms but will also lessen the risk of a relapse. The best thing to do is consult your doctor about the best method of safely quitting an opiate addiction. In most cases, your doctor will recommend an addiction treatment program. These treatment programs can either be inpatient or outpatient. There are several steps that will help you through the process of quitting an opiate addiction and eventually get you to the point where you no longer experience intense cravings for the drug.

First, you will go through a medically-assisted detox to rid your body of these opiates. This will take you through the withdrawal process. During this process, medical professionals will be hand on all times to ensure that no issues occur. You will likely then start receiving professional therapy that helps you overcome your cravings for opiates. This therapy gets down to the core of why you became addicted in the first place. Group therapy is also heavily recommended, as being around others who have experienced the same can be very beneficial to preventing relapse. If you follow these tips and methods, you can completely quit your opiate addiction for good.

About the Author

William Weiss is an advocate for substance abuse recovery. Being in recovery himself, he finds it important for others to learn more about substance abuse. It’s his sole vocation to inform people about the dangers of drug addiction as well as hope in recovery.


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