Opiates: Psychological Withdrawal

When people think of opiate withdrawal, they often imagine the severe, flu-like symptoms that make up physical withdrawal. The psychological impact from quitting opiates can be overwhelming but doesn't have to be. The body goes through both forms of withdrawal if it has become addicted and use of these drugs stops. However, people can become physically dependent without being addicted. This means they have just physical withdrawal symptoms if use is stopped.

Opiate withdrawal usually sets in within hours of last use. This can come about as a result of opiate detox in a professional setting or by effort on the part of the patient. However, patients are advised not to try a "cold turkey" approach because it can be dangerous.

Psychological Withdrawal Symptoms Can Include Cravings

The physical symptoms of opiate withdrawal can be treated rather quickly with the right treatment program. The psychological effects can last longer, and professionals call these post-acute withdrawal symptoms. Mental cravings are one of the hardest symptoms for patients to deal with and for professionals to treat. They can be overwhelming and may last a long time.

Other psychological symptoms that are associated with opiate withdrawal include:

  • Agitation
  • Overall irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Inability to sleep
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Lack of motivation
  • Reoccurring thoughts/preoccupation with opiate use
  • Restlessness

The length and severity of withdrawal can depend on individual circumstances such as the length of opiate use or degree of abuse and the level of opiate tolerance that's developed. Physical withdrawal typically lasts a few days but can linger for longer. Psychological withdrawal can persist. The first few days are said to be the toughest.

Counseling and Alternative Therapies Can Compliment Detox Programs

It's important to remember that these symptoms ease over time and that a complete and total recovery is possible. Opiate detox and opiate rehab centers offer varying programs, many of which attempt to manage or address a painful withdrawal.

Components of psychological withdrawal can be addressed through various therapies and strategies. Some doctors may want to treat symptoms such as depression or anxiety with pharmaceuticals. Therapy and counseling are typically offered to help patients transition. Other treatments can include biofeedback, acupuncture, behavioral modification, exercise, changes to diet and alternative practices such as reiki.