Can You Withdraw from Opioids Cold Turkey

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Can You Withdraw from Opioids Cold Turkey?

Prescription opioids, like oxycodone, hydrocodone and hydromorphone, are highly addictive narcotics that must be tapered when attempting to discontinue use. When you stop taking these drugs, the body responds with the emergence of painful withdrawal symptoms. Can you withdraw from opioids cold turkey, or is a tapering schedule usually advised? Let’s discuss.

About Opioids

Before we begin the discussion about opioid withdrawal, let’s review some basic information about this class of drugs. Opioids are prescription pain relievers, or analgesics. By attaching to the opioid receptors in the brain, they block the pain messaging between the nerve and the brain. In addition to pain relief, other effects include deep relaxation and mild euphoria.x
Some of the more common opioids in use are Vicodin, OxyContin, Dilaudid, fentanyl, codeine, and morphine.

Opioids are DEA Controlled Substances with a Schedule II designation due to the high potential for abuse and addiction. Many patients take pain meds after an injury or surgery and inadvertently become addicted. Others, however, seek out opioids for recreational use. Once addicted to a prescription opioid, users often switch to heroin because it is cheaper and easier to obtain.

How Does Opioid Dependence or Addiction Form?

Opioid addiction is a result of the impact of the drug on the brain’s reward system. For example, if you are recovering from surgery and in great pain, opioids block the sensation of pain. Along with the pain relief is the production of dopamine, the feel good brain chemical. The dopamine effect is pleasurable, with feelings of euphoria and relaxation.

The brain imprints this experience as a positive one that should be repeated. Whether the person is taking the opioid for medical reasons or recreation, with repeated use the brain adapts to it. With continued use, the brain pathways, the way regions of the brain communicate with each other, become altered. When this occurs, the brain stops producing its own natural dopamine and instead relies on the opioid. This leads to dependency and possibly addiction.

What are Signs of Opioid Addiction?

Opioid addiction or dependency becomes evident when certain signs and symptoms are observed. Opioid addiction symptoms include physical, behavioral, and psychological signs:

  • Slowed thoughts, speech, and movements
  • Insomnia
  • Restlessness
  • Weight loss
  • Drowsiness, nodding out
  • Constricted pupils
  • Chronic constipation
  • Anxiety
  • Doctor shopping for prescription opiates
  • Isolating from friends and family
  • Using the opioids in illicit ways, such as crushing the pills and snorting or injecting it
  • Driving while under the influence of the drugs
  • Ignoring obligations at home and work
  • Declining performance at work
  • Memory impairment
  • Problems concentrating
  • Depression
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Continue the opioid use even though it is harming your life
  • Loss of interest in once enjoyed activities
  • Drug cravings
  • Withdrawal symptoms when drug wears off

Dangers of Quitting Opioids Cold Turkey

If you are asking, “Can you withdraw from opioids cold turkey?” I hope you will read this section carefully. By cold turkey, it refers to suddenly quitting the opioid without any medical oversight. It is never advised that anyone who is dependent or addicted to opioids attempt to stop the drug on his or her own.

People who are addicted to opioids already have a good idea of what withdrawal symptoms might be like. They likely experience these flu-like symptoms if they cannot obtain the refill and must go a day or two without the drug.

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Naturally, when someone feels very sick they seek a remedy. For someone going through withdrawals, this would mean relapsing back to opioid use and never completing the detox.

Opioid Withdrawal Symptoms & Timeline

Can you withdraw from opioids cold turkey? You absolutely shouldn’t. A medical detox program allows you to slowly ease off the opioid via a doctor ordered tapering program. There are also drugs available that can assist with easing withdrawal symptoms and cravings. With this support, you are able to endure the detox and safely make it into the treatment program.

The opioid detox and withdrawal process follows three distinct stages:

    • Stage One: During the first 24-48 hours opioid withdrawal symptoms include:
      • Agitation
      • Anxiety
      • Muscle and joint pain
      • Bone pain
      • Cravings
      • Cold flashes
      • Lethargy
      • Restlessness
      • Runny eyes and nose
      • Insomnia
      • Excessive sweating
      • Excessive yawning
    • Stage Two: Days 3-5 withdrawal symptoms include:
      • Abdominal cramps
      • Diarrhea
      • Dilated pupils
      • Blurred vision
      • Goose bumps or chills
      • Rapid heart rate
      • Increase in blood pressure
      • Nausea
      • Vomiting
      • Seizures
  • Stage Three: Most withdrawal signs will fade out during in the final stage.


What is the Treatment Protocol for Opioid Addiction?

Someone with a moderate to severe opioid use disorder should enroll in an extended stay at a residential rehab. Opioid addiction is difficult to overcome in a month, and will most likely end in relapse. A rehab stint of three to six months should be the goal.

  • Rehabilitation is exactly that. While in treatment you will rehabilitate your mindset, your behaviors, and your lifestyle habits. This is accomplished by the following:
  • Psychotherapy. A licensed therapist trained in addiction recovery will guide you through various types of psychotherapies. These are behavior-based therapies that target dysfunctional thought/behavior patterns, and then help you replace those with healthy ones.
  • Process group. Working with a group of peers you will be guided by a counselor to explore topics related to recovery.
  • Family sessions. In the family group sessions, you examine family dynamics and sort out the obstacles to healthy functioning.
  • Medication. Medications can assist someone in early opioid recovery by helping them remain stable and functioning while reducing cravings.
  • Education. Gaining an understanding of how opioids affect the brain and lead to addiction can deter you from relapse.
  • 12-step. The 12-step program has been shown to be helpful in guiding the steps toward a sustained recovery.
  • Holistic. To enhance the treatment experience, you will engage in holistic activities, like yoga, mindfulness training, art therapy, and massage.

The objective of opioid treatment is to sustain sobriety in the long-term as the brain is rewired and new coping skills utilized.

Capo by the Sea is a Premier Opioid Addiction Treatment Center

Capo by the Sea provides the complete continuum of care for treatment of opioid addiction within a luxury setting. Can you withdraw from opioids cold turkey? Yes, but you shouldn’t. It is next to impossible to not relapse during detox or soon after. This is why a medical detox is so important, so please give us a call today at (888) 529-2114.