Opioids, whether taken as a prescription or purchased illegally, are some of the most addictive substances available. They are also some of the most fatal, resulting in over 33,000 U.S. deaths per year. Both prescription and illicit opiate pain medications can cause physical dependence. This dependence leads to an intense withdrawal period after consumers decide to give up the drugs.
Opioids prevent the body from feeling or understanding pain. While this may seem like a good thing to some, pain is a vital adaptation that helps you understand when there is something wrong. Over time, the body becomes used to the constant input of pain-relieving medications and eventually stops producing its own signals that would naturally provide pain management.
When the opioid inputs are taken away, there is nothing to replace them. While getting off of opioids is entirely possible, the process is far from simple. Opiate withdrawal takes courage. It starts with the tough decision to withdraw. Opioid addicts must really want to break their habit. Unfortunately, it can take quite some time to feel normal again after opioid addiction. In general, opiate withdrawal can last up to a week, maybe a bit longer. According to American Addiction Centers, withdrawal symptoms will set in 6 to 12 hours following the last dose of short-acting opiates (30 hours if long-lasting). They include:
- Excessive Yawning
- Increased Heartbeat
- Muscle Aches
- Runny Nose
- Sleeping Problems
Symptoms will peak at about the 72nd hour and continue as:
- Drug cravings
- Nausea and vomiting
- Stomach cramps
Opiate withdrawal can be broken down into three primary phases. The three phases of opioid withdrawal include:
The acute phase of opioid withdrawal lasts between three days to one week, depending on the type of opiate consumed and how much. During this initial period, symptoms of physical withdrawal are the most severe.
After the first stage, the body begins to rebalance the endorphin system. During this time, consumers may experience some physical effects of opioid withdrawal, though not as severe as the first phase. This second phase of opiate withdrawal can last a couple of weeks. Common problems include digestive distress, insomnia, headache, cramps, goosebumps, and mood fluctuations. These symptoms will gradually dissipate with time.
Once these symptoms fade away, many consumers then face the daunting (yet highly rewarding) challenge of managing the psychological, social, and lifestyle factors that contribute to opioid addiction. How long this final phase of opiate withdrawal lasts varies from person to person.
The symptoms listed are likely to be severe, so if you’re smart enough to make the decision, you’re smart enough to prepare. For instance, you’re not going to be hungry. Even the idea of cooking will upset you.
So, you should prepare nutritional meals before time. The nausea, diarrhea, cramps, and vomiting will leave you dehydrated. Some easily available drinks will replace the loss of electrolytes. Certain supplements like ginger, cinnamon, and turmeric will flavor the bland foods you can tolerate. Juices blended with easily digested fruit and vegetables will help once your tolerance improves. And, if you treat symptoms like the flu with soups, toast, yogurt, and foods gentle on your stomach.
10 Ways to Crush Opiate Withdrawal with Cannabis
1. Cannabis has properties to fight each of the symptoms listed here. In fact, it’s generally-accepted pain killing powers offer a real alternative to opioids used for pain management. Science and anecdotal history have found cannabis a valuable and effective remedy for pain. It is a natural analgesic, anxiolytic, anti-emetic, and anti-inflammatory. But, it is not addictive.
2. CBD Oil is extracted from cannabis. It is administered sublingually or mixed into food and beverages. As one of the major cannabinoids in cannabis, CBD soothes and relaxes brain and body. As such, CBD Oil can help manage pain and its related symptoms well enough to avoid opioids in the first place. But, in withdrawal, it will reduce anxiety, fight nausea, and prevent vomiting. Opioid addictive behavior appears as tolerance for the prescribed drug and as dependence that produces the withdrawal symptoms when you go clean.
3. Research supports the claims that cannabis manages pain and withdrawal symptoms. Various experiments sought solutions to alcohol, cocaine, heroin, opioid, and tobacco addiction.Gold standard university research suggests the cannabis can reduce the cravings for opioids. A 2015 study published in Substance Abuse concluded, “CBD has several therapeutic properties on its own that could indirectly be useful in the treatment of addiction disorders, such as its protective effect on stress vulnerability and neurotoxicity.”
A 2016 article in The Clinical Journal of Pain sought to measure response of people with opioid habits to the use of medical cannabis. “The treatment of chronic pain with medicinal cannabis in this open-label, prospective cohort resulted in improved pain and functional outcomes, and a significant reduction in opioid use.”
A 2017 test in The Journal of Pain felt, “many CP [chronic pain] patients are essentially substituting medical cannabis for opioids and other medications for CP treatment, and finding the benefit and side effect profile of cannabis to be greater than these other classes of medications.”
4. Cannabis is a natural remedy. This herb has no added chemicals or toxins when raised correctly. But, opioid addiction changes the brain’s chemistry affecting the distribution of dopamine. With the dopamine levels off the mark, dependency continues for months to years. This dependency invites and enables relapsing. The American Addiction Centers explains, “Whether prescription opioids or illicit versions like heroin, these drugs can lead to post-acute withdrawal syndrome if they are not tapered off properly. People who experience the full intensity of acute withdrawal are more likely to develop PAWS [Post-Acute Addiction Syndrome], which includes cravings, exhaustion, and cognitive impairment that does not go away for a long time.” When integrated with other withdrawal therapies, cannabis helps people control the symptoms that took them into opioids in the first place and remain off the substances once they enter withdrawal.
5. Cannabis has an entourage effect. It works on more than one mechanism at a time. Most people who become addicted have complex brain and body issues more complicated than their physical pain. Many people are psychologically and/or genetically pre-disposed to addiction. Addiction often has to do with the addict’s state of mind. The addiction builds as the opioid chemicals interact with the related neurology and bio-chemistry. As it alters the brain’s reward response system, the user seeks more to satisfy the tolerance level. For many, cannabis provides a holistic treatment. Ancient in origin, cannabis therapy has offered palliative therapies to those suffering from disturbances in their spirit, brain, and body.
6. Cannabis does not kill. There is no credible evidence of death resulting from a cannabis overdose. Yet, drugs used to treat addiction and withdrawal present problems. Methadone can be addictive. Naltrexone does not eliminate cravings. Buprenorphine may mean lifetime maintenance. Clonidine may reduce anxiety but not cravings. And, so on.
7. Cannabis can be administered in a variety of ways. While most people using marijuana have been smokers, an overall recovery regimen might incorporate cannabis in any number of ways. Cannabis edibles allow for discrete consumption throughout the day. Oils and butters included in cooking and baking makes consumption convenient and tasty. Extracts offer even more options. Patients and doctors will need to determine dosing and frequency.
8. Cannabis comes in various flavors, aromas, and potencies. Treatment experts recommend Chem Berry, Critical Kush, Go Bud, Northern Lights, Platinum Girl Scout Cookies, special Kush #1, and Wild Cherry. These are all Indica strains or Indica-dominant hybrids because the psychoactive THC does not make sense.
9. Cannabis CBD offsets THC A curious study found that rats, who had been deprived of their mothers, lost their attraction to opioids once they were administered THC. But, it did not work that way for rats who still had maternal support. CBD, on the other hand, softens THC’s impact on dopamine release. As Sensi Seeds concludes, “Firstly, for ex-users at high risk of relapse, it may help to reduce the desire to engage in reward-seeking behaviour; secondly, for those who have not become dependent on opiates but may be at higher risk due to negative childhood environment—such as children in care homes or those of particular socioeconomic deprivation—it may reduce the likelihood of opiate dependence ever occurring.”
10. Cannabis alone may solve minor withdrawal symptoms for people withdrawing short-acting opioids. But, such cases do not account for the most serious addictions, overdoses, and deaths.
Addiction recovery requires a systematic therapeutic response. It must integrate the advice of medical, psychiatric, and addiction rehabilitation professionals. But, given that, cannabis can be an effective tool in their arsenal of therapies to stop, treat, and rehabilitate people caught up in this epidemic.
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