Help Your Partner Through Opiate Withdrawal Immediately

Opiate withdrawal is an unpleasant but necessary experience for anyone who wants to reclaim their lives from the controlling grip of addiction. When you love someone, who is going through opiate withdrawal, it can help you both to learn what you can do to ease withdrawal symptoms and reduce health risks, especially if the withdrawal was unplanned and your partner is unprepared for the experience.

What is Opiate Withdrawal?

Taking opioids for an extended period of time causes your body to adapt to the drug’s chemical properties, creating a new normal where all functioning is adapted to the presence of the drug. As soon as the levels of opioids in the body drop through quitting, cutting down, or simply waiting a long time between doses, withdrawal symptoms begin, making the user physically ill and causing a range of negative mental and emotional reactions to the drug’s absence. For many, these withdrawal symptoms can feel like a bad case of the flu, and they may not even realize what is happening.

Different kinds of opiates have different half-lives, meaning that onset of withdrawal symptoms and how long it takes the drugs to completely leave the user’s system will vary. How long and how much you’ve been using with also affect opiate withdrawal, as will your individual body chemistry and health. Heroin tends to be quickly eliminated from the body, for example, so that symptoms begin within 12 hours and resolve within a week, while cold turkey methadone withdrawal may not begin for a day and a half and take weeks or months before symptoms improve. Tapering off of opiates slowly, or undergoing opiate detox at an addiction treatment facility, will make the symptoms far less severe, although the overall length of time before the body is drug-free will be much longer.

On average, opiate withdrawal symptoms are at their worst in the first couple of days and start improving within 72 hours. Most people experience a significant decrease in symptoms in a week or less, although some symptoms of withdrawal may linger for months. Most experts agree that opiate addiction recovery requires at least six months of complete abstinence.

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What are the Signs of Opiate Withdrawal?

Although opiate withdrawal symptoms do vary from person to person according to many different factors, there is a standard timeline that reflects the progression of symptoms that most people experience.

Within 24 hours symptoms may include:

  • Frequent yawning
  • Insomnia
  • Sweating
  • A runny nose
  • Anxiety
  • Teary eyes
  • Restlessness
  • Muscle aches

After the first day, other, more intense, symptoms may begin, such as:

  • High blood pressure
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Blurry vision
  • Dilated pupils
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Goosebumps and chills
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Diarrhea

How to Help Your Partner Through Opiate Withdrawal

If it was unplanned at home opiate withdrawal:

opiate withdrawal

Encourage your partner to seek opiate withdrawal treatment for a safe recovery.

Sometimes withdrawal symptoms may hit your partner unexpectedly, due to an unplanned opiate withdrawal. This can happen when their supply of drugs runs out, or when they are unable to access their stash for some reason. Because they will be entirely unprepared for an opiate detox, they will definitely need help from someone with a clearer head. An unplanned detox can be dangerous and may require medical intervention if health complications develop or symptoms become severe, but it can also be a blessing, accidentally leading someone into opiate addiction recovery.

  1. Always keep in mind, the more severe your partner’s addiction is, the more likely they will need medical attention during their opiate withdrawal.
  2. It would be best if you could take time off from work or school to help your partner, especially during the first few days of detox. Arrange to have trusted friends or family members take over for you when you can’t be there, or to help out with childcare or other responsibilities. It could be dangerous to leave your partner alone during this time, due to painful physical symptoms and possible health issues, as well as the intense cravings they’ll have to fight.
  3. Take care to preserve your own energy and mental health throughout this process. If you fall apart, you won’t be able to help your partner. Try to get sleep, eat well, and ask for help if you need it.
  4. Keep your partner comfortable. In addition to feeling flu-like symptoms, your loved one will likely feel anxious, irritable, and depressed, and will probably have difficulty sleeping. Make them as comfortable as you can by creating a cozy, quiet space for them to rest.
  5. Provide over the counter remedies for your partner’s pain and stomach upset. Massage is also good for muscle aches, or a hot bath if they can’t tolerate being touched.
  6. Make sure your partner stays hydrated, especially if they are experiencing fever, vomiting, or diarrhea. Have them slowly sip water, herbal tea, diluted juice, or broth.
  7. Encourage your partner to eat when they feel up to it. Light healthy foods are best, to ensure easy digestion and maximum nutrition. Good nutrition will speed the body’s healing, increase energy, and minimize cravings. Remember, your partner’s brain and body have been trained to see drugs as a cure for all ills. Hunger, thirst, and vitamin deficiencies can easily manifest as drug cravings in an addicted person.
  8. Distraction is key right now. Watch movies or binge a TV show together, or play cards or board games. Bring your partner magazines or books that don’t require too much concentration. Try to get outside to walk and absorb nature if possible, whether it’s in a rural neighborhood or a city park.
  9. Be a good listener. It can help your partner release their tension and fears while letting them know that you are present to support them through this experience.
  10. Be patient. Your partner may not be easy to deal with during opiate withdrawal, so don’t take any mood swings or crankiness personally. They are reacting to the challenge of overcoming their addiction, not to you.
  11. Keep negative, toxic, or energy draining people away during this time. Anyone who uses drugs, who tends to create chaos or conflict in relationships, or who requires a lot of energy to deal with, will not be helpful company for your partner.

Opiate detox can be dangerous; seek help for your partner today!

Once the opiate detox is complete (or even before), encourage your partner to seek professional addiction treatment. Detox is one of the many steps needed for successful recovery, not a cure for addiction. Your partner will also need to learn how to cope with long-term withdrawal symptoms, as well as stress and trigger situations, modifying their behavior in ways that support a drug-free life. They will also need to discover and work on any underlying mental or emotional health problems that may have caused them to turn to drugs in the first place.

If it was a planned at home opiate withdrawal:

All of the above tips for helping your partner through an unplanned opiate withdrawal still applies to a planned opiate withdrawal. Thinking ahead allows you to prepare to apply each tip in advance, and make a plan for how to deal with the timeline of withdrawal symptoms.

  1. Arrange for childcare or time off work or school. You may find it helpful to plot out a written schedule for the week.
  2. Planning meals ahead of time can be a big help. You can even prepare and freeze homemade soups in advance, to make healthy, stomach-friendly eating easier.
  3. Scour your home for any drugs or drug use triggers that will make the opiate withdrawal process more difficult. Although your partner is addicted to opiates, it is best to keep other drugs and even alcohol out of the house, as any intoxicating substance could become a replacement addiction or be a trigger for returning to opiate use. These substances could also complicate the body’s reaction to withdrawal and slow down the body’s efforts to heal from chronic drug use.
  4. Planning ahead will allow you to make a list of symptoms that may indicate the need for medical intervention. Nausea and vomiting can usually be handled at home, but if your partner breathes any stomach contents into their lungs, they can develop aspiration pneumonia. Diarrhea can be merely uncomfortable, or extreme enough to cause dehydration and loss of electrolytes, which can lead to irregular heart rhythms or heart attack. Consult a medical professional about other symptoms to look out for, especially if your partner has any physical or mental health conditions that could complicate the opiate withdrawal process. A professional can also give you additional advice on what to do throughout the various stages of detox and may be able to prescribe medications or treatments that could reduce symptoms and cravings.

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As you prepare for your partner’s opioid withdrawal, you may be tempted to use an at-home opioid detox kit that claims to be able to cure opiate addiction. Don’t waste your money. Not only are the claims false, these products have not been proven safe or effective. The FDA and FTC have warned the manufacturers of these kits that they have to remove the illegal claims or face seizure or injunction, but some companies may not comply or may find ways to convince customers of these claims without breaking the law through direct statements.

Companies producing these kits are taking advantage of people suffering opiate addiction by selling them false hope and causing them to delay seeking professional treatment. Counting on these products to work can make you and your partner less prepared for the withdrawal experience. If you and your partner feel unprepared to handle opiate withdrawal on your own, it is better to turn to a medical professional or addiction rehab facility for advice and treatment that has been proven safe and effective.

Remember, detox is not a cure for opiate addiction. If your partner does not address the underlying issues behind their drug use, they become extremely vulnerable to relapse. Peer support groups and 12-step meetings can be very useful, and a structured treatment program at a rehab facility will provide them with their best chance of success.

If it was a planned opiate withdrawal through opiate detox:

The safest way to detox from any substance is at a medical facility with 24-hour monitoring.

The more medical supervision your partner has through detox, the better off they’ll be, both physically and mentally. A medically supervised detoxification can make the withdrawal process much easier and can give your partner a more positive view of abstinence. It can also allow for other opiate addiction treatments, such as counseling, to be more effective, because they will be more physically comfortable, with clearer thinking.

Decades of research has shown that the most effective method of treating opiate addiction is through use of medications like methadone or buprenorphine. These medications relieve symptoms and reduce cravings without producing a high, allowing the patient to more easily adjust to life without drug use and to benefit from counseling and support groups. Eventually—within weeks, months, or years, depending on individual patient need—the medication can be slowly and carefully tapered off.

Throughout detox and for a long while afterward, your partner should engage in the same kind of cognitive behavioral approaches used for other chronic conditions such as diabetes and hypertension. You can help your partner with this by encouraging them to change their behavior, by modeling better behavior, and by supporting any healthy lifestyle changes they make. Couples counseling sessions can help you learn how best to support your partner in their recovery.

Professional treatment will help prevent relapse, which can be incredibly dangerous after opiate detox. Your partner will be most vulnerable to overdose at this time because their tolerance will be low, while their drug cravings and habitual behaviors may still be high. Using opiates the way they are accustomed to could easily cause a fatal reaction. The additional support, structure, and supervision of a treatment program can help prevent a dangerous relapse, and keep your partner on track for a brighter future.

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