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Opioid Withdrawal

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:

Withdrawal is a response to a sudden lack of opioids in your body. Withdrawal happens when you suddenly decrease or stop taking an opioid you are dependent on. Dependence means you feel you need the opioid to function mentally or physically. This happens after you have used the opioid regularly for a long time. Withdrawal can happen with an illegal opioid such as heroin, or a prescription opioid such as oxycodone or fentanyl.

DISCHARGE INSTRUCTIONS:

Call your local emergency number (911 in the US), or have someone else call if:

  • You have a seizure.
  • You cannot be woken.

Call your doctor if:

  • You have a fast heartbeat.
  • You have nausea and are vomiting, or you cannot stop vomiting.
  • You have the following signs and symptoms of dehydration:
    • Dry eyes or mouth
    • Increased thirst
    • Dark yellow urine, or urinating little or not at all
    • Headache, dizziness, or confusion
    • Irregular or fast breathing, fast or pounding heartbeat
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Medicines:

You may need any of the following:

  • NSAIDs , such as ibuprofen, help decrease swelling, pain, and fever. This medicine is available with or without a doctor's order. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. If you take blood thinner medicine, always ask your healthcare provider if NSAIDs are safe for you. Always read the medicine label and follow directions.
  • Blood pressure medicine decreases symptoms of withdrawal, such as nausea, vomiting, muscle tension, and anxiety.
  • Antianxiety medicine decreases anxiety and helps you feel calm and relaxed.
  • Antinausea medicine helps calm your stomach and prevent vomiting.
  • Take your medicine as directed. Contact your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him of her if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

Prevent withdrawal from a prescription opioid:

The best way to prevent withdrawal is to prevent tolerance. You may need to take a different kind of pain medicine after a surgery or injury. You can also talk to your healthcare provider about ways to manage pain without medicine. If you do need to take an opioid medicine, the following can help prevent withdrawal:

  • Do not suddenly stop using the opioid. If you have been using the opioid for longer than 2 weeks, a sudden stop may cause dangerous side effects. Work with your healthcare provider to decrease your dose slowly.
  • Take a prescribed opioid exactly as directed. Do not take more than the recommended amount. Do not take it more often or for longer than recommended. If you use a pain patch, be sure to remove the old patch before you place a new one. Talk to your doctor or a pharmacist if you have any questions about your medicine. Opioids often come with a Medication Guide to help you use it safely. Ask your pharmacists for a copy if you do not get one when you fill the prescription.
  • Talk to your provider about signs or symptoms of a problem. Tell your provider if you think you are developing opioid tolerance or dependence. Work with your provider to stop or lower the amount safely.

Opioid safety:

  • Do not take opioids that belong to someone else. The kind or amount that person takes may not be right for you.
  • Do not mix opioids with other medicines or alcohol. The combination can cause an overdose, or cause you to stop breathing. Alcohol, sleeping pills, and medicines such as antihistamines can make you sleepy. A combination with opioids can lead to a coma.
  • Learn about the signs of an overdose so you know how to respond. Tell others about these signs so they will know what to do if needed. Talk to your healthcare provider about naloxone. You may be able to keep naloxone at home in case of an overdose. Your family and friends can also be trained on how to give it to you if needed.
  • Keep opioids out of the reach of children. Store opioids in a locked cabinet or in a location that children cannot get to.
  • Follow instructions for what to do with prescription opioids you do not use. Your healthcare provider will give you instructions for how to dispose of it safely. This helps make sure no one else takes it.

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

You may need to return for other tests. You may also be referred to a specialty clinic to receive maintenance therapy medicine on a regular basis. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

© Copyright IBM Corporation 2018 Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or IBM Watson Health

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

Learn more about Opioid Withdrawal (Aftercare Instructions)

Associated drugs

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