Butorphanol is a type of opioid agonist drug that is usually administered by injection for those who are about to go through surgery. Often, it is administered sparingly because it is a potent opioid, but it is still possible for someone who receives it to become dependent on it. This also occurs when an individual abuses butorphanol. If someone becomes dependent or addicted to this drug, they will likely need butorphanol detox treatment in order to recover.
Butorphanol abuse, like many other types of opioid abuse, is extremely dangerous, not only because it can cause addiction, but also because it can lead to dependence, withdrawal symptoms, and in many cases, relapse. It is very important for someone who becomes dependent on this drug or any opioid-like it to seek professional care in a detox facility that offers safe, effective treatment.
Understanding Butorphanol Abuse
Butorphanol is often administered via injection to patients who are about to go through surgery, give birth, or undergo an operation. It may also be used as a nasal spray. The drug is an opioid agonist, which means it treats pain in the way that opioid drugs (like hydrocodone, codeine, methadone, etc.) do. The drug is most similar to morphine.
- Butorphanol is a schedule IV drug. It was placed in this schedule in 1997 by the Drug Enforcement Administration. While it is not considered to be one of the more dangerous opioid drugs, people can still become addicted to it and abuse it.
- Butorphanol is a synthetic drug, which means it can be replicated by those looking to sell it to abusers for a profit.
- Anyone who takes this drug in a way other than prescribed (including more often, in larger doses, or through a different method than prescribed) is considered an abuser, as are those who obtain it illicitly without a prescription.
The opioid abuse epidemic has reached epic proportions in the United States. You should always be very careful when taking a drug in this class, even under a doctor’s prescription. Still, those who use their medication exactly as prescribed may experience problems, especially if they take it regularly for more than a few weeks.
Butorphanol Abuse and Dependence
Butorphanol, like other opioids, can cause dependence. This means the individual who uses it will begin to rely on it, and if they suddenly stop using it, they will experience withdrawal. The brain and body become dependent on the drug’s relaxing and pain-relieving effects, so many doctors are careful not to put their patients on butorphanol for too long in order to reduce the chances of dependence. Still, this can occur anyway.
People who abuse butorphanol also become dependent on the drug as well as tolerant and addicted to it. Often, dependence is the first issue one must deal with in recovery, which requires medically assisted detox.
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Butorphanol withdrawal is what an individual experiences if they have become dependent on the drug and suddenly stop using it. This happens often to those who do not realize they are dependent and suddenly begin to experience painful and uncomfortable symptoms that are not dissimilar to the flu. This similarity causes confusion in many individuals.
Addiction and dependence can are independent of one another and the latter can occur without the former. Whether you were abusing butorphanol or not, if you are dependent on the drug, you will experience withdrawal if you stop taking it.
Signs and Symptoms of Butorphanol Withdrawal
Butorphanol withdrawal is usually easy to recognize because it is so similar to the flu. Also, an individual going through it will experience extreme pain and discomfort because their body is used to the drug being there to mask feelings of pain. According to DailyMed, the common signs and symptoms of butorphanol withdrawal are as follows:
- Runny nose
- Watery eyes
- Muscle, joint, and bone pain
- Weight loss
- Increased blood pressure
- Increased breathing rate
- Increased heart rate
- Abdominal pain
These are the symptoms you or your loved one will be most likely to experience. They are also the standard withdrawal symptoms most opioid drugs cause, which can lead some people to abuse butorphanol if they are already dependent on other opioids. However, this is a dangerous choice that will likely lead to more dependence and other issues.
Timeline of Butorphanol Withdrawal
Butorphanol withdrawal, like other opioid withdrawal syndromes, will usually last about a week or two. Most individuals can expect to be through the worst of their symptoms after at least 15 days, but PAWS (or a post-acute withdrawal syndrome) can cause lingering effects after the main withdrawal symptoms begin to disappear.
- First 24 hours: Most people experience the worst symptoms within the first 24 hours of withdrawal. These can include intense muscle, joint, and bone pain as well as uncomfortable flu-like symptoms.
- Day 2 through 5: Symptoms will begin to shift toward gastrointestinal problems, including nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Pain and discomfort may linger through this point as well as the flu-like feelings.
- Day 6 through 12: Physical symptoms may start to subside, although most people experience anxiety, depression, and lingering pain.
- Day 12 through 15: Most people are stabilized and experiencing minor symptoms if any at this point.
- PAWS: PAWS can last for weeks and sometimes even months after one’s regular withdrawal symptoms have ended. In most cases, these include depression, sleep problems, anxiety, dysphoria, irritability, and fatigue.
You should be prepared to still experience mild to moderate symptoms after the main timeline for withdrawal has ended. However, you will learn to cope with these symptoms while in detox and rehab.
Dangers of Butorphanol Withdrawal
Butorphanol withdrawal is similar to other types of opioid withdrawal, which many consider being a mild syndrome. In truth, though, it can cause serious problems for someone who does not receive the proper treatment, some of which can even be life-threatening.
- The gastrointestinal issues associated with butorphanol withdrawal mixed with the sweating one experiences from fevers and the other flu-like symptoms can lead to serious dehydration. People going through opioid withdrawal must stay hydrated at all times, and sadly, many people aren’t aware of this danger when going into withdrawal.
- Depression is another serious side effect of opioid withdrawal. The NLM states that each individual who is treated for opioid dependence must be screened for depression because the symptoms can become dangerous. The individual may even experience suicidal ideation, which they could potentially act on if not treated properly.
- Relapse is always a danger during withdrawal but especially for opioid-dependent individuals. If someone relapses during or after detox, they have the highest chance of experiencing a deadly overdose as a result. This is because many people return to using the same amount of the drug that they are used to, not realizing that their tolerances have diminished due to detox.
In order to keep yourself safe, it is highly important that you understand all the potential dangers associated with opioid withdrawal and that you seek the proper treatment for your butorphanol detox.
Am I Dependent on Butorphanol?
If you have been taking butorphanol for more than a few weeks regularly, you are probably already dependent. This includes those who have abused the drug and those who have taken it exactly as prescribed by a doctor. If you need the drug to feel good, to get out of bed, to fall asleep, or to essentially get you through the day, there are other strong signs of dependence.
Should I Go through Butorphanol Withdrawal at Home?
It is extremely dangerous to go through any form of withdrawal without proper treatment. Detox kits are not enough to keep you safe during withdrawal, and you must consult a doctor and/or seek treatment in a detox center in order to navigate this syndrome safely. Just because butorphanol withdrawal doesn’t cause psychosis or seizures like other substances of abuse does not mean you can—or should— go through it alone.
Therefore, it is best to seek help from a detox facility with trained medical staff. You may choose inpatient or outpatient care depending on the severity of your dependence and whether or not you have friends and family members who can look after you. Outpatient care can be a safe option, but you must remember to never go through withdrawal without some kind of medical care.
Butorphanol Detox Treatment
According to SAMHSA, clinicians are recommended to put individuals withdrawing from opioids on at least some sort of medication to treat their symptoms. Without medication, withdrawal can be extremely uncomfortable and sometimes even traumatic. The medications most often used in butorphanol detox treatment include
- Clonidine, an antihypertensive drug that only treats specific symptoms and cannot treat cravings in those who are addicted to butorphanol
- Methadone, an opioid agonist that treats severe withdrawal symptoms and can be used as a maintenance drug
- Buprenorphine, a partial opioid agonist that is safer than methadone in the case of abuse and can also be used as a maintenance drug
Antidepressants may also be used to treat severe depressive symptoms. Some detox centers also offer behavioral therapies for those who need them, and these can help prepare the individual for addiction treatment. Detox usually lasts anywhere from about 2 weeks to 30 days.
What Happens After Detox?
After detox, you must seek addiction treatment if you are addicted to butorphanol. Detox will only treat your dependence on the drug and will not allow you to learn the skills you will need to make a strong, solid recovery after addiction. Those who are not addicted can end their treatment after detox, but if you were abusing this medication at all, you will need to attend rehab.
Some individuals attend long-term treatment while others choose a shorter stint. It can also be effective to attend more than one program over your lifetime. Whatever you choose, make sure it is the best option for your needs, as your comfort during treatment is important to your overall recovery success.
- U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2018). Butorphanol (By Injection).
- U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. (1997). Schedules of Controlled Substances Placement of Butorphanol Into Schedule IV.
- DailyMed (U.S. National Library of Medicine). (2017). Butorphanol Tartrate- butorphanol tartrate injection, solution.
- U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2016). Opiate and Opioid Withdrawal.
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2018). Treatments for Substance Use Disorders.