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Opioid Withdrawal Medications: Why Medical Supervision Is Important

By WebMD Connect to Care Staff
Opioid withdrawal medications may help control your symptoms, but medical supervision is crucial. Here's why.

Some people try to avoid opioid addiction treatment because they're afraid of the uncomfortable symptoms associated with detox and withdrawal. But don't let that be a deterrant. Under the right professional care, there are medications that can help ease those symptoms and get you set on a path to successful recovery.

Opioid Withdrawal Symptoms

Opioid withdrawal symptoms are no joke. They can range from mild body aches to chills and nausea. 

 “Symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, shaking, rapid heart rate, high blood pressure, muscle aches, and general body pain can ensue,” Gail Saltz, MD, a Clinical Associate Professor of Psychiatry at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, Weill Cornell Medical College, and a psychoanalyst with the New York Psychoanalytic Institute, tells WebMD Connect to Care.

Other symptoms of opioid withdrawal include:

  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Runny nose
  • Watery eyes
  • Dilated (wide) pupils
  • Sweating
  • Belly cramps
  • Diarrhea

How Medications Help

Common opioid withdrawal medications may include methadone, buprenorphine, naltrexone, and lofexidine. Medications for opioid withdrawal symptoms are used to help reduce discomfort and cravings without producing the pleasurable effects an opioid-dependent person experiences while using opioids.

These medications do so by linking to the same receptors that opioids do but instead, activating these receptors at a slower or less powerful rate. Certain medications also help by blocking the activation of these receptors fully to prevent any rewarding effects.

Why Medical Supervision Is Important

It is important to understand what your body needs based on your personal experience with opioid dependency or addiction. Doing that with the help of a medical professional can make a world of difference in your recovery and overall health.

 “The prescriber must assess each patient as a whole before prescribing either one of these medications, provide a thorough consultation so that the patient is aware of the potential dangers of these medications, and monitor the patient regularly to assess for any of these possible adverse outcomes,” says Jessica Nouhavandi, PharmD, the lead pharmacist, co-founder, and co-CEO of Honeybee Health.

Opioid withdrawal medications may not be the only form of treatment that you need. According to Joseph Gorordo, a licensed chemical dependency counselor and Vice President of Recovery Unplugged in Texas, being medically supervised for these medications can be imperative as prolonged opioid abuse may create a whole host of medical, psychological, and social issues, such as HIV, anxiety, and depression.

Medical professionals may need to assess how these medications can help you as an individual, especially if you are facing or will face other issues. “The more these issues can be addressed holistically, the greater the likelihood of a positive outcome,” Gorordo says.

Get Help Now

If you or a loved one is struggling with opioid addiction, WebMD Connect to Care Advisors are standing by to help.

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