No Opiate/Opioid Withdrawal Pain?

No Opiate/Opioid Withdrawal Pain?

At Novus our patients do not suffer the withdrawal pain that they have experienced at other detox facilities or when they tried to withdraw from opiates or opioids on their own. Here is why.

WHAT ARE OPIATES/OPIOIDS? Simply speaking, an opiate is a drug derived directly from the opium plant. Examples of opiates are morphine, codeine and heroin. An opioid is a synthetic drug that acts in the same way as the opiates. Examples of opioids are oxycodone and hydrocodone which are the narcotic ingredients of OxyContin, Vicodin and Percocet.

DEFINITION OF PAIN The Encarta Dictionary defines pain as, " unpleasant physical sensation: the acutely unpleasant physical discomfort experienced by somebody who is violently struck, injured, or ill." No one likes pain. It is a signal to us that something is wrong and, if not addressed, can lead to more and more problems or even to death. However, for most of us, pain is a very temporary thing. We bump our shin on a table and it hurts for a time. It may be sore to touch but generally the pain is gone in a few minutes. We get a toothache. We know that the solution will be to go to a dentist who will drill out the cavity and fill it and then we won't have the pain anymore. We touch the hood of a car that has been in the sun and feel the heat on our hand and quickly pull back our hand. When we feel pain, endorphin production, our body's natural painkiller, is increased and we feel relief from the pain. However, if you have a more severe injury or are recovering from some types of surgery, it may overwhelm the body's ability to produce enough endorphins. Then the pain becomes so great that it overwhelms the person. If it is pain from a problem that is going to heal, then it may be appropriate to prescribe opioid drugs like:

  • OxyContin
  • Oxycodone
  • Vicodin
  • Hydrocodone
  • Percocet
  • Methadone
  • Morphine
  • Dilaudid

DO OPIOIDS TREAT PAIN OR DO THEY INCREASE PAIN? A common misconception is that these drugs treat the pain, but they really don’t. They merely act like anaesthesia and keep us from feeling the pain. Ideally, our body will heal and we can stop taking the drugs—we hope. OxyContin, oxycodone, hydrocodone, Percocet and Vicodin are really legal heroin—they act the same way in the body—and create dependence or are just as addictive. Unfortunately, many of our patients start taking these narcotic drugs because of surgery or an injury and either become dependent--they continue taking the drugs because they will experience very uncomfortable symptoms if they stop, or addicted—they are dependent but also crave the feeling that the opioids give them. Ironically, the medical literature is clear that opioids actually increase the pain some people may be taking the opioid to combat. This is a condition called opioid-induced hyperalgesia. It is common for people taking these narcotic drugs for pain to find that they need ever-increasing amounts to contain the pain, but it actually gets worse, the more of the drug they take. If you want to learn more about this, read Do Opioids Actually Increase Pain?.

WHAT IS OPIATE/OPIOID WITHDRAWAL? Opiate or opioid withdrawal refers to stopping or greatly reducing an opiate or opioid. Withdrawal, if done on your own or at some detox facilities, is often very uncomfortable. It has been compared to the worst case of the flu, but ten times worse than that. Your head and entire body aches. You may have diarrhea and may be vomiting. You can't get comfortable. You often can't sleep. However, unlike the flu, during opiate/opioid withdrawal, these symptoms don't go away in a few days but can continue for weeks.

WHY CAN OPIATE/OPIOID WITHDRAWAL BE PAINFUL? There are a number of reasons that opiate/opioid withdrawal is painful whether you were addicted or dependent. Here are some of the reasons.


Endorphins are our body's natural lubricants. Like motor oil in an engine, the endorphins block the pain signals, created by natural actions of the body and by the little accidents that we all experience, from reaching the brain as pain. When you take opiates or opioids, they stimulate endorphin production. The body begins to rely on the drugs for endorphin production and produces less and less endorphins on its own. If you suddenly stop taking the drugs, the body is producing few endorphins and everything is painful. Even breathing can be painful. Holding your head up can be painful.


The cells in our body float in fluid and the signals needed to pass communication between the cells are transmitted through the fluid. Fluids make up approximately 70% of our body at birth, and this decreases as we get older to about 55%. If the amount of fluid is reduced below the optimum level for our body, then our cells slow down their activity. All of our organs, like the kidney and liver, which are made of cells, operate much less efficiently. The result is the body has a much more difficult time performing its normal functions--like producing endorphins and overcoming illness. However, when it comes to hydration, all fluids are not equal. For example, many people think that since sodas, coffee, juices and tea are mostly water, drinking these will hydrate them. The problem is that these liquids act as diuretics—substances that increase the amount of urination. Most of us have experienced having to go to the bathroom more frequently when we were drinking these substances. If you measure the amount of a diuretic that you drink and the amount of urination, you will see that you are urinating more fluid than you drank. Drinking water is what you need to do, but it is not the only answer. In order for the body to retain fluids, it is necessary to have the proper balance of electrolytes—salts like potassium and calcium. If the body does not have the right amount of electrolytes then the body will not become hydrated and you will urinate most of the water that you drink. If you want to learn more about hydration and how it affects withdrawal you can read our two part series on hydration here and here.


One of the more common side effects experienced by opiate and opioid users is that they become depleted in some of the essential vitamins, nutrients and minerals that are needed for the body to function efficiently. This weakens our immune systems and makes our recovery from any illness more difficult. Most people take vitamins in capsule and tablet form. Unfortunately, few of us are able to extract and use even a small percentage of the vitamins and minerals in the tablets and capsules. Many people who deal with sewage talk about the undigested vitamin pills that they find in the waste. The most effective way for all of us to absorb the vitamins and minerals is intravenously (“IV”) where it goes directly into the bloodstream or through intramuscular injections.


Another reason that opiate/opioid withdrawal is stressful and often not completed is understandable. A person doesn't know what to expect and how to react to what is happening with their body. During opiate or opioid withdrawal, people will often experience disturbing side effects like spikes in their blood pressure or in their temperature. These are frightening and, if not properly addressed, can result in emergency room visits or, for many, resuming the drugs.



At Novus Medical Detox Center, we know that someone withdrawing from opiates or opioids will need to have a protocol that allows supplementation of the body's natural endorphin production until the person's own production is resumed. This is done primarily with Suboxone or Subutex. As the natural endorphin production resumes, the amount of the opioid is reduced until a person can be entirely off the opioids. In the event that a person is taking over 60 to 80 milligrams of an opioid, we may use other opioids to address the withdrawal pain until we can move the person to Suboxone or Subutex.


The most efficient way to ensure hydration is to do it with an IV. Then the proper mix of electrolytes and fluids will go directly into the bloodstream and start immediately hydrating the body. For the reasons stated above, we also include vitamins, minerals and amino acids in the IV. At Novus we also include glutathione—a very effective antioxidant, and GABA--the body's natural calming agent.


Novus has medical personnel on duty at all times. If a patient begins to have concerns about blood pressure or other withdrawal symptoms, then this is immediately addressed. We have eliminated the stress of the unknown--whether the symptom is dangerous or not and it is treated before it can become dangerous.


At Novus Medical Detox Center, we know that if a patient understands what is going to happen during each step of their withdrawal, that they will have an easier time. We provide each of our patients with this information and this takes away much of the fear of the unknown and makes the withdrawal from any substance, easier.


Many people attempt their opiate or opioid withdrawal in an environment that is not comfortable. If you are at a detox facility and in a shared room, you will have to experience two detoxes, yours and the person’s next to you. At Novus, you have a private room. If you feel like being alone, just go in your room and turn on your television, watch a DVD or just sleep. When you want to be with others, then you can come into one of our common areas. Also, many detox facilities are located in the middle of cities so you constantly hear sirens and horns and the other sounds of traffic. Also, in many of these facilities you are not able to go outside and walk around. At Novus, we are in a rural setting on 3.25 acres, and our patients can walk around on our grounds or play basketball or just enjoy the sun. Finally, at Novus we believe that people withdrawing from drugs and alcohol should not have institutional food but tasty and healthy food. If you look at the success stories written by our patients, you find many comments about how great our food is.


While all of us have different pain thresholds, most of our patients tell us that they experienced little or no pain. This is a great surprise to them. One man who came to us on a very high dose of methadone told me that he was amazed that he was not experiencing any real pain. He was uncomfortable sometimes and stayed in his room but this was not what he expected. In fact, he told us that he chose Novus not because he believed that his withdrawal would be pain-free, but because he felt it was a good place to be sick and that he would receive the appropriate medical care. You can read his success story and others on our blog.


The fear of opiate withdrawal or opioid withdrawal is no longer a reason not to withdraw from drugs like:

  • OxyContin
  • Methadone
  • Vicodin
  • Heroin
  • Percocet
  • Oxycodone
  • Hydrocodone
  • Lortab
At Novus Medical Detox Center, we specialize in helping people find a cure to the problems caused by drugs and alcohol. People also come to us for a safe and more comfortable:
  • Alcohol detox;
  • Paxil and Zoloft detox;
  • Detox from other unwanted drugs.
Please contact us if we can help someone that you know.

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