It is generally only a matter of time before a person addicted to an opiate such as heroin, OxyContin, or Vicodin decides that they have to stop using the opiate or their life will be ruined. In an estimated 95% of the cold turkey withdrawal attempts where patients tried to withdraw on their own, the withdrawal was so painful that the person resumed taking the opiate. Thus, remember that the dangers of detoxing alone are quite high, and you must do it under the supervision of medical experts.

Being forced to take the opiate again has created a situation that can lead the opiate user to believe that they are trapped-they don’t dare stop taking opiates, but they have to stop taking opiates, or their life is ruined. This feeling of helplessness can lead to intense depression and erratic behavior. This condition is not aided when many of their friends and family are saying that they should just “Stop this behavior. It is ruining your life and ours.” Even though the opiate user is now having difficulty functioning regularly and knows that their actions are destructive, they just can’t confront stopping and often resent and do destructive things to those around them that “can’t understand” what they are going through.

While not attempting to justify or condone addiction or physical dependence on opiates, the opiate user and their family will be better able to confront and handle the opiate problem when they understand more about what is actually happening.

Opiate withdrawal: Symptoms and treatments

What is withdrawal, and why is it so difficult? Withdrawal is simply not doing something that you were doing. A simple example of withdrawal that most of us have experienced is to go on a diet and stop eating desserts, candy and sodas. We know that for many of us, this is very difficult because instead of our body producing the correct amounts of carbohydrates for energy, we have come to rely on sugar from these other sources. While difficult, most of us have an understanding that the cravings and feelings of tiredness will gradually lessen if we persist in abstaining from desserts, candy and soda and obtain our sugars from the foods we eat.

Many others of us have become addicted to caffeine. Our doctor may have advised us to stop drinking caffeine, but withdrawing from it is often very difficult. However, if we persist in the withdrawal, we gradually find that we no longer need caffeine to get us going.

Withdrawal from opiates is similar to withdrawing from sugars and caffeine; however, the withdrawal symptoms can be much more severe. While sugars and caffeine deal with our energy, opiates interfere with the way that our bodies deal with pleasure and pain.

The human body produces endorphins, a natural hormone that the body uses to regulate pleasure and pain. Everyone wants to experience pleasure and not pain. This is normal. The endorphins increase the feeling of pleasure or at least a feeling of relief from pain. For some people who take opiates not because of pain from a physical problem but because they want to escape the pain of life, the opiates increase the feeling of pleasure, even giving a sense of euphoria where everything is now ok even if it is not.