Withdrawal from opiates is typically characterized by symptoms of discomfort including severe physical and emotional symptoms and cravings for the drug. It is well known that the mere fear of withdrawal symptoms often keep people from seeking detox or rehab treatment for addiction. This avoidance leads to on-going abuse of the drug, increased tolerance and higher risk of overdose and death.
Withdrawal “detox” symptoms may include:
- Muscle cramps, limb and “bone pain”
- Insomnia and restlessness
- Flu like symptoms including vomiting, diarrhea, fever, tremors and shakes
- Agitation often accompanied by involuntary leg movements
- Anxiety, irritability and mood swings
- Irregular heart rate
Even after an acute “detox” phase passes, people can experience more serious, long-term consequences of opiate withdrawal including serious mental health problems like depression and anxiety. In addition, cravings for the drug often last for months and contribute to the vulnerability people have to relapse particularly when confronted with stress or pain. The high risk of relapse we see in opiate users is accompanied by a high risk of accidental overdose and death. This is because a person who returns to the same dose after losing their tolerance to opiates risks overdose, respiratory suppression and death.
This risk of opiate overdose has become a defined crisis by Government largely due to the expanded access to very powerful opiates such as Fentanyl and Carfentanil. Fentanyl is a strong synthetic opiate typically administered to clients following surgery, to manage chronic pain or to produce sedation during medical procedures. Although similar in effect to morphine and heroin, Fentanyl is 50 to 100 times more potent. Carfentanil is an analog of Fentanyl and is 100 times more powerful than Fentanyl and 10,000 times more powerful than morphine. Both Fentanyl and Carfentanil have become widely known drugs of abuse and have contributed significantly to the Opioid Crisis and to unprecedented rates of overdose deaths across North America.