Opiate addiction is arguably one of the biggest challenges facing the United States. With the number of people addicted to opioids and overdoses hitting a historical high, it’s important to understand just how addictive opioid-class drugs are and why safely quitting the habit requires help.

Cold Turkey Isn’t a Solution to Opioid Addiction

Stigma, finances, life circumstances, shame, and even confidence could all be reasons why a person might feel tempted to tackle handling an opiate addiction alone. While it might be alluring to attempt to give up opioid drugs cold turkey, without the help of a medical detox program, you could put yourself in danger. To properly detox from opioid addiction, it’s important to have the right medical care, emotional support from a healthcare team and medications. Trying to manage opioid withdrawal syndrome alone is risky.

Statistically, it’s uncommon for someone with opioid substance use disorder to die of opioid withdrawal, but it can happen. Opioid addiction is serious, and withdrawal should only be attempted under medical supervision or at a treatment facility like Ranch Creek in California to decrease the risk of a life-threatening situation.

If you or someone you care about is struggling with opioid use disorder, there are a few things you should know about risks and treatment options to make the best decision possible when reaching out for help.

What Are Opioids?

Opioids are a highly addictive class of drugs that includes prescribed medications such as oxycodone and hydrocodone. This drug class also encompasses heroin and dangerous synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, carfentanil and more. Many people are prescribed prescription opioids as pain relievers, as well as to treat anxiety, muscle aches and more, while others use opioids for recreational purposes alone.

While prescription opioid medications can be helpful for people under the care of a doctor, they can still be addictive. Withdrawal from prescription opioids may require a medical detox to end dependency. In the same way that alcoholics require medication-assisted treatment for alcohol withdrawal, people who use opioids require medical care to manage safe detox.

A Closer Look at the Numbers

According to the CDC, almost 140 people die every day in the United States from opioid overdose, and the number of drug-related overdoses has quadrupled since 1999 alone. A rise in mental health conditions, feelings of depression and isolation due to the pandemic and cultural shifts since the pandemic have also contributed to an increase in the number of people struggling and addicted to opioid-class drugs. While the CDC, non-profit groups, medical professionals and even local clinics and hospitals are working hard to help curb this epidemic, there’s still a long way to go when it comes to spreading accurate opioid drug use statistics and education, including on the risks of dying from opioid withdrawal.

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Can You Die From Opiate Withdrawal?

The short answer is yes: Opioid withdrawal can cause death. In general, you should not attempt to detox cold turkey with any drug. Unsupervised opioid withdrawal, in particular, may cause fatal side effects due to the nature of the symptoms involved with detoxing.

Furthermore, people who try to detox on their own have a higher rate of relapse and chance of future opiate overdose if they aren’t under medical care for recovery. Specifically in the early stages of opioid withdrawal, the ability to use medication to ease withdrawal symptoms and treat cravings is the safest way to ensure a better chance of a full recovery and avoid relapse.

Opioid Detox Treatment Options and Considerations

How Can I Detox Safely Using Opioids?

Opioid withdrawal care often involves medication-assisted treatment (MAT), 24-hour supervision from qualified medical professionals and mental health support. For many people, recovery centers, treatment facilities, and even hospitals are the safest places to detox from opioid addiction. When making a decision about where you or someone you care about might detox, it’s important to consider a treatment plan for transitioning into recovery.

The initial detox is only the first step in ending opioid addiction. For this reason, it’s a good idea to know the difference between treatment facilities and hospital units meant to help people end addiction. A good place to start when it comes to picking the right treatment option for you is to have a conversation with a healthcare professional you trust, such as a doctor, nurse, social worker, therapist or staff member at a local mental health clinic. If you still aren’t sure and live in the United States, consider calling 211 in your area to ask for resources.

Which Opioid Drug Withdrawals Are Fatal?

It can be easy to underestimate the power of your own opioid use disorder, especially if your addiction is new or you’re still able to function in your daily life. However, it’s important not to make the mistake of assuming that opioid withdrawal might be easier for you than for other people. The truth is that no two people’s bodies or addictions are exactly alike, and the process of detoxing can vary for everyone.

With that said, fatal opioid drug withdrawals are most commonly associated with heroin or other powerful opioids that are used recreationally.

Additional Risks of Detoxing From Multiple Substances

Many people who struggle with opioid addiction have other substance use issues that can complicate the withdrawal process. This is another reason to seek medical attention if you’re considering detoxing from opioids.

When a person has been struggling with multiple types of drug abuse, withdrawal syndrome increases dramatically. Multiple addictions cause an increased likelihood of deadly withdrawal effects, which include heart disease, seizure organ failure and high blood pressure. Seizures are rarely related to opioid withdrawals. Nevertheless, a number of medical complications may occur during detoxification because of multiple drugs being taken away.

What to Expect: A Closer Look at Treatment and Detox Management

The detox process and early treatment aren’t the same for everyone, but there are some general things you can expect if planning to go through an opioid withdrawal under medical care.

During medically supervised opioid withdrawal, medication must be taken to control opioid withdrawal symptoms, especially those that are severe and life-threatening. Long-term opioid replacements are achieved by using methadone or buprenorphine. Methadone is prescribed for patients undergoing hospital or outpatient treatment. The starting dosage is 10 mg of methadone administered orally or intravenously (IV), which can help begin the detoxification process and manage symptoms.

For some people, a short hospital stay during the detox process can be helpful. Others do well with daily visits to an outpatient clinic where they can pick up methadone and obtain support around working through detox and early recovery. The best way to know which might work best for you is to have a conversation with your doctor, your therapist or another licensed healthcare professional.

Opioid Withdrawal Symptoms

The following are a few of the symptoms a person may face in opioid withdrawal. With the help of medical care and healthcare professionals, many of these life-threatening symptoms can be managed or even avoided:

  • Persistent vomiting
  • High blood pressure
  • Muscle aches
  • Excessive sweating
  • Delirium tremens
  • Heart failure
  • Death

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Addiction Treatment Centers Like Ranch Creek Can Help With Opioid Withdrawal

You might feel like you can stop taking opioids on your own. You may avoid reaching out to a substance abuse treatment program because of cost, stigma, home or work responsibilities or other reasons. Nonetheless, a professional detox can provide optimum results for you and your family.

Waiting to get treatment for a substance use disorder, particularly opiate addiction, can lead to overdose, complications, damaged relationships, death and more. By reaching out now, asking about ways to pay for medical care and supervised detox, and getting connected to people who want to help, you’ll be giving yourself and your family the best hope for a better future.

Reach Out for Help With Opioid Withdrawal and Recovery Today

If you or someone you care about needs help with opioid withdrawal or is looking for a medical detox program that will provide both medical care and emotional support in handling opioid withdrawal symptoms, consider calling Ranch Creek Recovery today to learn more about how to safely address opioid addiction and begin the recovery process. Ranch Creek accepts a variety of insurance coverages and can offer referrals to loan companies that can help you or your loved ones pay for your medically assisted detox and longer-term recovery efforts.