Can You Die From Opioid Withdrawal?
Opioid withdrawal symptoms usually last for about 3 to 5 days but they can also go up to 10 days. Withdrawing from opioids is a dangerous and challenging process and people are typically advised not to quit suddenly or “cold turkey” by themselves This is because it may result in continued use and stronger urges for opioid drugs. During opioid withdrawal, individuals may go through various painful and uncomfortable symptoms which can be so serious possibly leading to death in some cases. However, this includes cases in which the individual has a severe opioid addiction and is detoxing from several addictive substances at once.
The best way to minimize the risks involved with opioid withdrawal is by undergoing medically-supervised treatment. This typically comprises emergency care, around-the-clock monitoring, and medication-assisted treatment. You will also have the benefit of having access to qualified medical professionals who can guide you through the opioid detoxification process.
How Can Opioid Withdrawal Cause Death?
The brain usually starts depending on opioids to function “normally” every day in individuals with opioid dependence. The first time one takes opioid drugs, they will experience feelings of pleasure because the brain releases excessive levels of certain chemicals, particularly dopamine. Eventually, the brain becomes adjusted to these chemical levels and stops generating its chemicals.
This leads the individual to start relying on opioid drugs to get back to their other emotional and physical state. Since the body stops producing these chemicals on its own, it becomes harder for the person to minimize their opioid use. This is how you start abusing opioids.
Even though opioid withdrawal does not lead to death directly, the symptoms may be fatal in certain situations. Diarrhea and nausea are some of the symptoms experienced during late opioid withdrawal and they can lead to heart failure or dehydration. If the affected individual does not replenish the fluids lost from the body due to these symptoms over time, complications can lead to death.
Such cases usually happen in places that lack the proper resources to manage people going through addiction such as jails. It is possible to safely withdraw from opioids with the right symptom management methods. However, this may be more difficult and dangerous if you are in an environment where you cannot appropriately manage these symptoms.
Failure to treat and monitor opioid withdrawal symptoms can lead to death. Patients suffering from comorbid health conditions such as liver failure, HIV, congestive heart failure, or coronary artery disease have a higher risk of death from opioid withdrawal. People will go to extreme lengths to ease their symptoms by taking more dangerous opioids and this combined with opioid withdrawal’s physical complications increases the risk and danger of the process.
Other opioid withdrawal symptoms usually experienced in serious cases include increased heart rate or blood pressure, which can result in a stroke or a heart attack. Most cases of people dying from opioid withdrawal symptoms are those whereby heavy opioid users try to detox alone without any treatment or medical supervision. These users typically do not know how bad their health is or how serious their condition has become due to their opioid addiction.
Even though most of the symptoms of opioid withdrawal do not result in death, there are added risks involved with the process that may be fatal. These risks involve the methods used during opioid detox. One questionable method of opioid detox is the anesthesia-assisted method, which is used by some outpatient treatment facilities promising rapid opioid detox. However, the CDC has reported this method as having negative reactions from this detox treatment, including death. This treatment method has been shown to be ineffective for individuals in long-term recovery and it increases the likelihood of relapse.
Generally, rapid detox methods are typically not advisable for safety reasons because of the risks they carry. Alternatively, opioid detox done in a supervised inpatient treatment program has a higher likelihood of promoting long-term abstinence and safe recovery.
The Risk of Detoxing from Opioids and Other Substances
When an individual is suffering from addiction to multiple substances, their withdrawal symptoms will be multiplied if they try to quit everything at once. For example, someone who is a regular binge drinker and abuses opioids might get the same withdrawal symptoms but at a higher intensity. This will make their detox process more uncomfortable and painful.
Several addictions can also raise the risk of experiencing lethal withdrawal symptoms typically linked to high blood pressure, organ failure, seizures, or high heart rates. Seizures are not typically linked to opioid withdrawal. However, the complications resulting from multiple substance withdrawals can lead to seizures during detox.
Safe Opioid Withdrawal to Reduce the Risk of Death
If you want the most comfortable and safest experience during opioid withdrawal, then it is advisable to seek opioid addiction treatment at recovery facilities. Such clinics can use the appropriate drugs to help relieve your withdrawal symptoms. The physician will give you the right medication to make the treatment process more manageable. Once you manage these withdrawal symptoms, you will be in a better position to focus on the other recovery methods that can keep you from relapsing. Opioid addiction treatment clinics also have therapy and other support services that are essential for maintaining long-term abstinence.
Inpatient opioid addiction treatment is ideal for reducing the severity of withdrawal symptoms and helping patients go through treatment with all the tools they need for recovery. This kind of treatment is very effective for helping individuals who are trying to get over their addiction and prevent the risks associated with severe opioid withdrawal symptoms. Inpatient treatment also helps patients avoid the risks of at-home or rapid outpatient detox methods which are more likely to cause relapse.