Alleviating Opiate Withdrawal Symptoms
Authored by Audra Franchini
Clinical Insight Into Alleviating Your Patient’s Withdrawal and Encouraging an Drug Treatment Centers
For many patients, the grueling first stage of opiate withdrawal symptoms is incredibly uncomfortable and difficult. Withdrawal from opiates takes place whenever chronic use of an opiate—whether it’s heroin or prescription painkillers—is suddenly discontinued. Symptoms of opiate withdrawal, which can resemble a bad case of the flu, include:
- Abdominal pain
- Hot and cold sweats
- Emotional symptoms such as irritability, anxiety, and agitation
- Muscle aches and pains
Symptoms may lead to more dangerous conditions, such as severe dehydration, aspiration and lung infection, or relapse leading to accidental overdose. It is imperative for clinicians to focus on improving the quality of life of those who are experiencing opiate withdrawal symptoms – especially by encouraging them to seek help at one of our drug treatment centers.
Treatment For Opiate Withdrawal Symptoms
Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is a combination of medication and counseling interventions in order to treat opiate dependence disorders and prevent overdose. One 2014 treatment facilities study by SAMHSA found that medications were used in nearly 80% of detoxification cases. There are a wide variety of pharmacological and behavioral treatments available for patients enduring opiate withdrawal symptoms. Here is a brief overview of the pharmacological treatments you should be aware of:
Clonidine: works by reducing anxiety, agitation, muscle aches, sweating, runny nose, and cramping.
Methadone and buprenorphine: works to reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms and allow patients to function normally in everyday life.
Naltrexone: blocks the effects of opioids to prevent opioid high; also used to prevent overdose in the event of relapse.
The next phase of MAT treatment should include a personalized plan for behavioral and psychosocial well-being. Patients should be given access to individual therapy sessions based on whatever frequency recommended by a clinician. They should also be given access to seminars and group therapy sessions on a daily basis. Resources for ongoing behavioral change include art and music therapy, leadership training, relapse prevention, meditation, family counseling, and family conflict resolution, communication coaching, spiritual counseling, and yoga.
These treatment options, in addition to any other necessary continuing psychiatric and medical services, work to prolong sobriety and establish abstinence and recovery in our patient’s daily life. MAT has proven to be clinically effective, providing more comprehensive, individually-focused programs of recovery for more patients by incorporating both medication and behavioral therapy. By offering the support services that address the needs of most patients, over time MAT improves patient survival rates, reduces relapse, and increases patients’ rates of employment.
Drug treatment centers offer the best possible supervised and clinical conditions in which to apply the use of MAT for opiate withdrawal symptoms. Lighthouse offers medically supervised detoxification to help patients stay safe and comfortable during the withdrawal process. Although opiate withdrawal alone is not a full course of treatment, it is an important first step. To learn more about our full continuum of care, contact us today at 1-800-RECOVERY.