Prescription opioid pain medication comes with the same risks for withdrawal as heroin. Abruptly discontinuing medication, even when being taken as prescribed, can induce physical and emotional withdrawal symptoms. Opioid withdrawal symptoms can range from mild to severe, with the most severe requiring hospitalization via emergency room. Withdrawal symptoms including anything from restless legs to severe, uncontrolled vomiting with risk of dehydration. An opioid detox program is the most appropriate setting to break the dependency.
It is easy for clients to minimize and justify the use of prescription opioids as these medications do serve a medical purpose in treating chronic and severe pain. A physical dependence can arise after only a few short weeks of prescribed use, faster if the medication is being abused. As with any drug, stopping abruptly will induce withdrawal symptoms that are best managed in opiate detox programs.
What is the most dangerous opioid?
Heroin use continues to carry a stigma depicting an un-bathed junkie on the street corner, panhandling to support his habit but what is really the most dangerous and deadly of all opiates?
It was only in recent years that the nation’s opiate problem has been recognized as a national health concern, aptly titled “Opioid Epidemic.” In decades past, this class of drug held a significant taboo with even regular recreational drug users vowing to never experiment with heroin for fear of immediately becoming addicted. However, with production of pharmaceutical opioids, such as OxyContin, having been kicked in high-gear, addiction has become much farther-reaching than the typical homeless heroin addict.
To clarify some terminology, often times the words “opioid” and “opiate” are used almost interchangeably, however opiates fall under the umbrella term of opioid (specifically, opiates are any opioids that are derivative of morphine i.e. heroin and morphine itself. Therefore, an opiate is a specific type of opioid.)
Prescription pain medication has been available for number of years in the United States however it wasn’t until 1996 with the release of OxyContin has the abuse of such drugs have been widespread. In 2000, a campaign by the pharmaceutical industry had been targeted towards doctors, describing the medication as a “miracle drug” for conditions from chronic pain, pain after surgery, and cancer patients.
Although this new medication offered patients relief from these severe conditions, the potential for abuse was as great.
OxyContin contains a time-released coating that allows the medication to work slowly and consistently when taken orally, as prescribed. Drug abusers quickly realized that simply removing this coating allowed for the entire pill to be metabolized in minutes, or even seconds. Users could now not only take the pill by mouth, but also crush the pill and then snorted, smoked or even be used intravenously. The tablets were available in dosages as small at 10 milligrams and briefly, as large as 160 milligrams.
OxyContin (and the later released RoxyCodone) create a feeling nearly identical to heroin. The amount of users who had sworn to never use heroin, are now faced with what may now seem like an easy decision; the cheaper alternative, heroin.
Clients with an opioid use disorder require the same level of medical supervision as heroin users. A safe medical detox is the best way for clients to begin their journey on the road to recovery.
Prescription opioids are causing a lot of pain for those withdrawing from the substance. If you or someone you know is struggling with detoxing from opioids, it is likely they need detox and treatment. Call Steps to Recovery at 866-488-8684 for help.