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Opiate withdrawal can be an excruciating, terrifying experience. It begins with a runny nose, overactive tear production, and incessant yawning, which may only seem annoying at first. Unfortunately, it is a daunting sign that the worst symptoms are yet to come. Shortly after the last dose of opiates, a person with opiate dependency will be launched into full-blown withdrawal symptoms that mimic a severe case of the flu. A person may have chills and profuse sweating simultaneously because the body has a difficulty regulating its temperature when it is in withdrawal. This can be extremely uncomfortable as it occurs simultaneously with intense body aches, muscle weakness, rapid heartbeat, restless legs, and an inability to sleep. Late symptoms of opiate withdrawal include nausea, stomach cramps, vomiting, and diarrhea. Though opiate withdrawal is typically not life-threatening, it can certainly feel like it. Depending on what kind of opiate for which a dependence is developed, physical withdrawals can last anywhere from three days to several weeks.
Not only are the physical symptoms miserable, but the mental obsession to use opiates becomes stronger than ever. One may be unable to think about anything else but getting high. The mind may seem like it is running a million miles a minute without a way to stop. The thoughts of using drugs may be so agonizing and unbearable that it drives many people to get high once again. These drug cravings can last for months after the physical withdrawal symptoms subside, making it difficult to maintain long-term sobriety.
The opiate crisis has been labeled a national public health emergency, and it has become harder than ever to receive medical detox and treatment for opiate abuse due to new laws that prohibit medicaid from providing funds for many beds in detox and treatment facilities. It can be intimidating to undergo opiate withdrawal without supervised medical assistance, so this may deter many people from seeking the help that they so desperately need. The fear of experiencing withdrawal symptoms may prevent many people struggling with opiate addiction from getting sober, but there are alternative treatments than can help alleviate withdrawal symptoms and increase the chances of a person getting through the withdrawal period without a relapse.
Cannabis is a non-addictive substance that can alleviate nearly all opiate withdrawal symptoms. The CBD in cannabis is known to reduce pain due its analgesic properties which help to lower inflammation in the joints. This can help reduce muscle aches and joint pain during the withdrawal period. THC is widely accepted in inhibiting feelings nausea and vomiting among cancer patients, and it works the same in the brain of a person with an opiate dependence. The detox process can be made much easier with a little help from cannabis.
CBD is also useful in relieving much of the anxiety and stress that occurs during the detox period because it has a powerful effect on regulating a person's emotions. CBD also has calming effects that can help with anxiety, therefore alleviating the obsessive, racing thoughts that one may struggle with while their body is craving opiates.
When somebody does seek medical attention during the detox process, they are administered drugs like Methadone or Suboxone. These drugs can be safe when used for a short period of time under medical supervision, but can be just as bad as prescription or illicit opiates if they are used long-term. After being used for an extended period of time, a person may develop a physical dependency on them as well. While these drugs may be effective in treating withdrawal symptoms, they are addictive in nature and are merely replacing one opiate for another. Methadone and Suboxone bind to the same receptors in the brain that prescription and illicit opiates do, which only causes a person’s dependence to last longer. People sometimes have worse withdrawals from these drugs than they do with illicit opiates. Overdose deaths have even been reported due to the addiction and abuse of drugs like Suboxone and Methadone. It seems counter-productive to treat one opiate addiction through the use of another opiate that carries many of the same risks.
Since cannabis is not addictive and it is not an opiate, it a much safer way to cope with opiate withdrawal symptoms. It helps relieve nearly all symptoms, doesn’t have a risk of overdose, and hasn’t been found to be physically addictive. In addition, states with medical marijuana have a lower rate of opiate overdose deaths, suggesting that cannabis could be an alternative treatment for those suffering from the opiate epidemic. As more legislation is passed regarding the legal status of marijuana, more people may have the opportunity to overcome opiate addiction through the use of cannabis.