In this extensive guide, you will learn what opiate-induced symptoms are, as well as the common treatments to help fight the effects of withdrawal.
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Opioids, which includes prescription painkillers and heroin, can produce opiate-induced symptoms that lasts from a couple hours to a couple weeks. Opioids change how the brain responds to pain. This produces a feeling of being “high” that disrupts the reward and pleasure areas in the brain. However, overuse of these opioids can lead to unwanted symptoms.
Although some symptoms are not life threatening, they can be hard to manage. Taking more than the suggest amount prescribed can lead to opioid dependence. If not taken care for, this can develop an addiction in the body that is extremely hard to fight.
This guide will take a deeper look into the types of common opioids that are consumed and what types of symptoms to expect from them.
After hearing that heroin is an opiate, a common question that many ask is “what other drugs are opioids?” Opioids that are legal are morphine, methadone, buprenorphine and oxycodone. They are sold under brand names such as OxyContin, Percocet, Vicodine, Tylox, Alprazolam (Xanax) and Demerol. Over time with extensive use, the body can develop a dependency for it. This always leads to some sort of opiate-induced symptom.
However, heroin, a Schedule 1 narcotic, is completely illegal and banned in all 50 states. Below is a brief introduction to the different types of opioids commonly abused.
Morphine is used by doctors to treat patients with moderate to severe pain. Much like other opioids, this prescribed narcotic works in the brain to change how the body feels and responds to pain.
Morphine is available as a pill or liquid. Dosages are given to patients based on medical expertise. Failure to comply with the correct dosages will results in side effects. More often than not, overconsumption may lead to addiction. Common brand names are Arymo ER, Kadian and MorphaBond ER.
Like morphine, methadone is also classified as an opioid and narcotic. The difference lies in what it is used for. Those with an addiction to heroin and other narcotic drugs are given methadone for detoxification. It reduces withdrawal symptoms by acting like the narcotics. However it does not produce the associated feelings of “being high.”
Common methadone brands are Dolophine, Methadose and Diskets. This medication is only available at certified pharmacies.
Buprenorphine is medication prescribed by certified physicians to treat opioid addiction. Buprenorphine can also be dispensed for take home used, by prescription. How this medication works is by it’s “partial opioid agonist” property. This allows for:
- Less euphoria and physical dependence
- Lower possibility for misuse
- Mild withdrawal effects
At the appropriate use, buprenorphine will suppress symptoms of opioid withdrawals and help decrease cravings. This medication is most widely used to treat opioid addiction.
Oxycodone and Hydrocodone
Those with cancer-related pain are given either oxycodone or hydrocodone for pain relief. Studies have shown no vast differences in their pain-relieving properties.
Patients who take oxycodone do so on an around-the-clock basis until their doctors tells them to stop. In other words, oxycodone should not be taken as-needed.
Hydrocodone is also used to treat severe pain. They are prescribed to help with chronic conditions, injuries or surgeries. Although these two medications are similar, hydrocodone appears more likely to cause dependency. It is misused more than any other opioid in the United States.
Unlike the other opioids, heroin is a highly addictive, illegal drug. Heroin is made from poppy plants – which is used to also make morphine. The opium found in the poppy pods are used to make morphine, then further refined to make heroin.
Most heroin is smoked, snorted or injected into the body. This creates additional risks for the user who faces the dangers of AIDS or other infections. The problem with heroin is that it does not always stem from using heroin initially. Oftentimes, users are prescribed painkillers to help with pain, like post-surgery for example. Upon extended use, moving to heroin is not only cheaper but an even more effective option.
Heroin abusers often use it to escape their life, responsibilities and unwanted emotions. However, they do not consider the effects it can have on them. This makes it almost impossible to cure those affected if they do not want the help. The opiate-induced symptoms are much more severe with heroin use, making the user take more to alleviate the effects.
Opioid abuse can have serious impact on a user’s life. Even though most opioids are medically prescribed, there is a risk for overuse that leads to addiction. These substances can affect almost every part of the body, potentially leading to permanent damages to the body. In addition to the common hazards of overusing opioids, sharing needles for heroin has its own dangers.
There are a multitude of consequences that can accompany long-term abuse, but there are just as many that are seen immediately. Below we explore the short and long-term effects of opioid abuse.
The short term effects of opioid abuse can be felt quickly after use. However, the duration depends on the type of opioid and the amount taken. Noticeable short term effects is a feeling of being “high”, along with pleasure and relaxation. Common short-term side effects are:
- Itchy skin
- Feelings of heaviness in the arms and legs
- Mood swings
- Cotton mouth
- Decrease in respiratory rate
- Intestinal bloating
Over time these short term effects can start affecting the body systems. Although this is not common for those who are taking their prescribed amount, over extended use will affect:
- Gastrointestinal system
- Musculoskeletal system
- Cardiovascular system
- Endocrine system
- Central Nervous system
- Respiratory system
- Immune system
Long term use of opioids may have adverse consequences. Some of the major side effects cay cause frequent infections and possible liver problems. Frequent constipation, increased sensitivity to pain and possible infertility are also noticeable effects.
Continual use after experiencing these effects will lead to dependence and increased tolerance. Studies show that users will have a higher chance of opioid overdose when these two factors are present. On the same hand, continual use will result in oxygen deprivation, increasing the possibility of permanent brain damage.
Other research also show that the opioid addiction may deteriorate the brain’s tissues that contains nerve fibers. As a result users will have difficulty making decisions, experience a decline in some motor controls and cause abnormal reactions to stressful conditions.
Understanding when and how someone is on opiates is the first step to helping them. However, the scary fact about extended opioid use is that clear signs won’t show up until it is too late. It is up to friends and family members to take the initial step to help their loved ones.
Below are the eight common signs to know how someone is on opiates.
Constricted Pupil Size
One of the best indicators of opiate abuse is the user’s pupil size. While there may be many reasons why someone may have dilated pupils, there only a few things that make them small. Therefore small pupils are significant indicator of opioid use.
When the body begins reacting to the opioids, the pupils will have a physiological response. Constriction of the pupil will occur when the circular muscle, which is controlled by the parasympathetic nervous system, contracts. This is why one of the first things doctors do is take a look at their patient’s pupils.
Why do opiates cause itching? According to the chemical reactions in the body, opioids release histamine which can create an intense itch. Some new opiate users are particularly uncomfortable and worrisome with this side effect. They believe that it is an allergic reaction, however that is not the case with most incidents.
Scientists may have found a specific receptor protein that triggers itching. These receptors respond to a signal that releases inflammatory factor like histamine. When this occurs, other cells are brought to the area of inflammation to get rid of the infection. This can cause allergies and present itself as itching.
Those that use opioids continuously may experience impaired sleep. However, with extensive use outside of the prescribed dosages will lead to worse sleep quality, sleep disturbances and longer time to fall asleep. Abusers were also more likely to have sleep apnea – this potentially serious disorder is when breathing repeatedly stops and starts during sleep.
Other symptoms that may show up for sleeping troubles with opiate use are:
- Restless limbs
- Racing mind
- Cold sweats
- Aches and pains
- Constant toss and turning
Since extensive use of opioids can lead to sleep problems, other problems may arise from lack of it. Problems such as failure to restore physical well-being, decreased information processing, weakening of the body and unhealthy mood regulations.
Feeling nauseous is an extremely common side effect of opioid use. Often regarded as a short-term effect, it may last for the entire duration of opioid use. Whether the user is taking the opioids as a prescription drug or using it illegally, feeling sick is unwanted.
When patients are prescribed opioids in a clinical setting, there are options to consume antagonists to help reduce nausea. However, at home use is a different story. Those affected will find themselves running to the bathroom more, looking more “green” and try to rest more often. Although nausea is more recognizable in short term use, users with dependencies may find themselves experiencing nausea and vomiting.
Opioid-induced constipation is also a common symptom of opioid use. Although constipation is not just a side effect of opioids, it is undoubtedly one of the bigger culprits.
Signs of constipation from opioid use include stools that are dry and hard to pass. There is also the lack of wanting to go to the bathroom when needed. With short term use, the symptom are minimal. However, long-term abuse will bring more serious problems over time.
The reason why this occurs is due to the muscles located around the small intestines. The muscles is responsible for a movement that helps push stool through, called peristalsis. When opioids are introduced into the body, these squeezing movements slows down. This causes the muscles to not perform as it should and users are left with feeling “constipated”.
Dramatic Behavioral Changes
If loved ones display dramatic changes in their behavior then it may be due to opioid use. Usually an initial feeling might be the only clue, whether they are medically prescribed or not. The more common types of changes are:
- Not caring for their personal hygiene and appearance
- Lashing out at family members; mood swings; increased irritability
- Developing a habit for stealing
- Trouble at work, school, home, and other personal relationships
- Lack of respect, care, attention and responsiveness to others
- Less care for their living surroundings
- Consistent trips to new different physician’s offices
Recognizing these early signs in behavioral changes can help fight the addiction sooner. However, sometimes these symptoms may be overlooked for various reasons. On one hand, the symptoms may be minimal and just seem like minor issues that people generally go through. On the other the abusers may just conceal their changed behaviors.
It is the job of the friend, family member or spouse to spot these changes. The first step would be to confront those affected. If this fails, consulting a physician for treatment would be the next best move for help.
When the body is used to having opioids in its system, it becomes dependent. Suddenly cutting off the opioids will case a strong reaction and cause those affected to jump back in. However, the short and long term symptoms will persist. Getting rid of these opiate-induced symptoms requires a number of procedures to help.
Slowly tapering off the opiates will help much more than quitting cold turkey. This will also reduce the intensity of the withdrawal. There are a number of foods that can also be consumed to help mediate the symptoms as well.
However, the problem lies in the compulsive nature of the addiction. Most people may find self-regulated tapering to be nearly impossible. This self-medicated procedure will often lead to full relapse. It is best to find support from loved ones that can also help with the recovery period.
Over The Counter Help
Using the correct dosage of certain medications can help. There are many medications that can help with diarrhea, nausea, headaches, pains and sleeping troubles.
Below are the medications that can be bought from pharmacy stores to help with the common opiate-induced symptoms.
This medication is used to treat sudden diarrhea. How it works is by slowing down the bowel movements and removing water from stool.
Meclizine (Antivert) & Dimenhydrinate (Dramamine)
These antihistamines are used to prevent and treat nausea, vomiting and dizziness.
Those suffering from constant itchiness and other forms of nausea can use this drug to fight those symptoms.
If the opioid-induced symptoms persist, then it may be time to call a doctor. Opiate addiction doctors can help manage the symptoms with personalized recommendations and prescription to help. They can also do in depth tests like blood work to scan the body for any other damages.
Certain medications like Methadone and Buprenorphine may be offered to treat the opiate withdrawals. Short term methadone use for opiate withdrawal is introduced to help with getting rid of the dependency. Buprenorphine, which acts similarly, is also used for opiate withdrawals. Both can be administered within the clinic or given to be taken at home.
Other options that are offered are counseling for individual or group therapy. Not only will a doctor help treat the addiction, but support from others goes a long way.
The duration of opiate withdrawals only last as long as the abuse happens. Finding a medical professional can help get rid of the opiate-induced symptoms much easier.
If you or a loved one are struggling to find a solution for opiate-induced symptoms, it might be time to seek a medical professional. Reach out to us at Scottsdale Internal Medicine today and let our medical staff help personalize a solution for you.