Millions of people use drugs to manage their pain. These pain killers can be a life saver for those who are sick of suffering from chronic pain. Unfortunately, narcotics can be addictive and the user becomes dependent on the drug over time. This means that people have to take the medication, or else they will suffer severe withdrawal symptoms.

Opiates, opioids, and narcotics are very addictive types of drugs and the withdrawal side effects can be very unpleasant. These effects include nausea, vomiting, constipation, irregular heartbeat, excessive sweating, and body and muscle aches. These symptoms are just the beginning of a process that could last days and does get progressively worse. In extreme cases, withdrawal symptoms can cause seizures, strokes, heart attacks, and sometimes death.

People who have been taking prescription pain killers for a long time should never try to quit “cold turkey”. The best way to safely stop taking opiates is to discuss tapering down the dose with a doctor. People can also enter an opiate detox where they will be monitored and given medications for severe withdrawal symptoms.

Long term opiate use can lead to a buildup of chemicals in the body. These chemicals can become strong enough to effect even pregnant women. Pregnant women and their newborns can experience opiate withdrawal, even if there are no opiates in the mother’s system. The NIH has released this article with information on the rising rates of babies born with opiate withdrawal.  These cases are called neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) which can cause low birth weight and respiratory problems for the newborns. Many of these newborns need extra care and attention.

As we mentioned earlier, going through withdrawal from opiates is not something that people should do on their own. In fact, many people who suddenly quit their prescription drugs are more likely to relapse because the withdrawal is unmanageable. No one should have to quit alone nor should they have to suffer the harsh side effects.

There are drugs which can be used to treat opiate addiction and dependence such as methadone, buprenorphine, and clonidine. These drugs act in a similar way to opiates but can have strong adverse effects themselves and are almost always given under strict medical supervision. They’re helpful, but many doctors are weary of their patients trading one addiction for another.