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Opiate withdrawal is an acute condition accompanied by a variety of symptoms due to abrupt cessation or reduction of opiate drugs usage after heavy and prolonged intake of such drugs. Most commonly abused opiate drugs are heroin and morphine. However, people may also get addicted to prescription drugs containing hydrocodone and oxycodone. Generally, there is a high risk of developing physical dependence to drugs found in prescription medications. Many times, an addicted person is not aware of his/her addiction until the onset of withdrawal symptoms.

Diagnosis and Treatment for Opiate Withdrawal

In order to diagnose opiate withdrawal, a doctor must perform physical examination as well as consider a patient’s medical history and drug use. A blood or urine tests can detect opiate drugs in the body and confirm the diagnosis. 

Opiate withdrawal is commonly treated with certain medications and supportive care. The treatment for opiate withdrawal aims to relieve the symptoms and conduct detoxification.

Opiate Withdrawal Medications

Medications used in treatment of opiate withdrawal mainly involve opioid agonist drugs such as methadone, and buprenorphrine.

Clonidine

Clonidine is the most commonly used medication for opiate withdrawal treatment. It is used to relieve opiate withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety, agitation, sweating, cramping, muscle ache and runny nose. Clonidine is an antihypertensive drug that regulates blood pressure and lowers heart rate since it decreases the level of certain chemicals in the blood. Clonidine can be administered orally or as a transdermal patch. 

Buprenorphine

Buprenorphine, also known as Suboxone, is a semi-synthetic opioid or partial opiate agonist used in treatment of opiate withdrawal symptoms. Buprenorphine can shorten the length of detox period and is also used for long term maintenance.

Methadone

Methadone is a full opiate agonist used for detoxification from opiate drugs. It is used for long term maintenance but unlike buprenorphine it is highly addictive and may cause severe withdrawal symptoms.

Other Opiate Withdrawal Medications

Opiate withdrawal symptoms like nausea and vomiting are commonly treated with hydroxyzine and trimethobezamide. Dicyclomine is used for abdominal cramps, headaches and body aches can be relieved with ibuprofen, while diarrhea is treated with loperamide. Herbal remedies like ginger and Valeria root are used to speed up detoxification.

Detox Program

Drug treatment programs like detox under anesthesia and rapid opiate detox are advertised treatments for opiate withdrawal. In such programs, the patient is placed under anesthesia to receive high doses of opiate-blocking drugs to speed up the return to normal opioid system function. However, there is no evidence that these programs reduce the intensity of symptoms and they may even lead to fatal outcome.

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