Painkiller Detox and Withdrawal

Strong prescription painkillers such as codeine, morphine and fentanyl can be very effective in the short-term management of serious pain. However, painkiller addiction can develop if used in large amounts or periods of time, and may require a painkiller detox and withdrawal to overcome.

These are some of the most well-known, but there are more than 20 different opioid medications authorised for use in the treatment of pain in the UK. While they are very effective at treating pain, they can also be extremely addictive, which is why they are generally only recommended for limited periods of time. They can sometimes be prescribed over longer periods, but usually only for serious conditions such as cancer.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), which guides healthcare providers in the UK, warns that opioid-based painkillers can be addictive even when prescribed. It said: “Prolonged use of opioid analgesics [such as morphine] may lead to drug dependence and addiction, even at therapeutic doses. There is an increased risk in individuals with current or history of substance use disorder or mental health disorders.”

The risks of painkiller addiction and other harms are greater when these painkillers are misused. This might start with legitimate use that gradually sees the user develop a dependency and seek out bigger and more frequent doses – either through going through a prescription quicker, being dishonest with medical staff to get more of the drug or going through unofficial channels.

Opiate-based drugs are illegal to sell or distribute – this is the case even if you give tablets from your own prescription to a friend, for example. Prescription painkillers are also used recreationally. This may involve using much higher doses and can increase the risks – not only of developing an addiction but of overdosing or suffering serious side effects.

If you sense you are developing a painkiller addiction, consider rehab and detox treatment today.


What Causes Painkiller Addiction?

When you use strong painkillers over a period of time, you can develop a tolerance to them; you need to use more of the drug for the same effect. Opioid painkillers lead to euphoria and relaxation sensations which are experienced after using the drug. This is what causes addiction to develop, as eventually, you may need to use the painkiller to feel normal while your enjoyment of other activities and sensations is reduced.

Your system adjusts to the painkiller being present and tries to balance your brain chemistry appropriately, which makes your body reliant upon painkillers to function normally after a long period of use.

This can lead to physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms when you stop using painkillers. There is also an element of psychological dependency with any addiction, which is why medical detox and painkiller rehab treatment are so beneficial to people attempting to recover from painkiller addiction.


Are you suffering from Prescription Drug Addiction and need help? If so, Rehab Clinics Group are a leading UK-based experts in drug rehabilitation treatment. Find out how we can help by getting in touch with our friendly team today. You can either call our confidential helpline on 0800 470 0382 or request a callback by clicking on the below form.

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Signs of Painkiller Addiction

Drug addiction can develop gradually, and you might not be aware that you have a problem at first, especially if you started using painkillers as directed and through a legitimate prescription.

Some signs to watch out for include:

  • Increased tolerance (needing to use more for the same effect)
  • Withdrawal symptoms (feeling ill effects when you don’t use it)
  • Craving painkillers
  • Using painkillers for side effects other than pain relief
  • Using more than directed on a prescription
  • Trying to obtain further prescriptions/being dishonest with doctors
  • Obtaining the painkiller through unofficial (illegal) means
  • Feeling anxious about securing more of the drug
  • The painkiller becoming a central part of your life
  • Feeling like you can’t get through the day without it

If any of these apply to you (or someone you know), you might have developed an addiction or physical dependency on painkillers. It is very difficult to overcome addiction without expert help, which could include a supervised painkiller detox.


What is the Process of a Painkiller Detox?

Detoxification, more commonly known as detox, refers to the period when you process the drugs already in your system and the immediate aftermath of dealing with the cravings and withdrawal symptoms. Government advice on safely coming off opioid painkillers warns against stopping suddenly. Getting the right help and support is important when you are ready to stop taking the painkiller, which is why private rehab treatment is recommended to take you through a medical painkiller detox.

A painkiller detox and withdrawal in drug rehab will typically last 10 days, but may be shorter or longer. You will complete the medical detox in the detox wing of the rehab centre and will be monitored throughout the process.

You may be prescribed replacement medications that provide a low, steady dose of opioids, acting on the opioid receptors in the brain without providing the highs and lows of drug use. This can help to stabilise the process, but painkiller withdrawal symptoms can still occur. Other prescription medications may also help with withdrawal symptoms and cravings.

You will also have support and people to talk to in rehab who understand what you are going through, either due to training and experience in drug and alcohol treatment or because they have been through a similar experience. Sometimes it is both, as many people working in addiction recovery are former addicts who understand painkiller addiction and what detox is like.


Benefits of a Painkiller Detox in Rehab

You can go through an outpatient painkiller detox in a community setting. This might mean you can still be prescribed medications to help, but you will have minimal supervision and support while you go through the detox process, and you will still be tempted to obtain the drugs through unofficial means. This type of detox is still better than going through a ‘cold turkey’ home detox alone, which is not recommended.

Completing a painkiller detox at a dedicated detox clinic or private drug and alcohol rehab centre means you can access round-the-clock care and medical intervention if withdrawal symptoms are particularly painful or dangerous. You will also be away from the people and places associated with your drug use, with no access to the substance.

You can also follow detox at rehab with a complete treatment programme to address your addiction’s root causes and psychological aspects.


Painkiller Withdrawal Timeline

The timeline of painkiller withdrawal can vary considerably depending on the individual, the type of painkiller involved and other factors like the heaviness of use.

Early onset withdrawal symptoms can start to appear just a few hours after last taking the drug and could include:

  • Agitation/irritation
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Sweating
  • Muscle aches

Later onset symptoms could include:

  • Abdominal cramping
  • Dilated pupils
  • Vomiting

The worst of these symptoms will often peak within the second or third day after withdrawal begins, but this can vary. Symptoms will generally be much less within a week, but psychological issues and cravings can persist much longer.

Get in touch with Rehab Clinics Group today to start painkiller addiction treatment. We can arrange for you to complete a dedicated painkiller detox and withdrawal – just phone on 0800 470 0382.