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Narcotic Painkiller Withdrawal
The majority of patients that come to Novus Medical Detox Center have previously attempted to withdraw from narcotic painkillers or heroin on their own. Unfortunately, a withdrawal is so uncomfortable, painful, and sometimes even medically dangerous that most people are unable to complete it and eventually revert to using the drug to which they are addicted.
Here are some of the definitions that a person going through a withdrawal might find helpful.
The term “dependent” is used to describe a person who has been taking narcotic painkillers and experiences withdrawal symptoms when they try to stop taking them. People can become dependent because they were given painkillers but took them for too long, and these people may often not need to go into further treatment because they are not addicted.
The term “addicted” is used when a person continues taking narcotic painkillers not because of the fear of withdrawal, which they will experience if they quit taking them, but because of the way the painkillers make them feel. Even though pain may still be experienced, the addicted person primarily seeks the drugs for this euphoric feeling and will do anything to obtain them.
Research estimates that without further treatment after a medical detox, 95% of addicted people will go back to taking the painkillers.
An opiate is a drug derived from the opium plant. Some examples of opiates include morphine, codeine, and heroin.
An opioid is a synthetic chemical substance made by drug companies that has similar action in the body to that of opiates. Examples of opioids are methadone, Percodan/Percocet, Lorcet, Lortab, Demerol, Vicodin, OxyContin, Suboxone, Subutex, and Dilaudid.
Endorphins are natural hormones that the body produces and uses to block pain signals from the nervous system and relieve pain. The word “endorphin” combines “endogenous” (originating in an organism) and “morphine.” Endorphins are protein molecules that bind with receptors located in your brain, spinal cord, and other nerve endings.
Endorphins are naturally produced by a variety of activities such as running, swimming, cycling, skiing, deep breathing, and even laughter. Because of our different DNA and metabolisms, the amount of endorphins produced and the activity required for their production vary. Some people may start to feel “high” after exercising for 10 minutes, but others may not get a similar feeling until they have exercised for 20 minutes or longer.
Narcotic painkiller receptors are molecules on the surfaces of cells to which the narcotic painkillers attach and activate the receptors to produce endorphins. Different types of narcotic painkiller receptors are present in the brain. The receptor most relevant to narcotic painkillers has been named the “mu” receptor. It is now believed that through activation of the mu receptor, painkillers exert their analgesic and addictive effects and trigger the feeling of euphoria. The roles of other types of opioid receptors in the brain (that is, non-mu opioid receptors, e.g. the kappa receptors) in the addictive process are not as well-defined.
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