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Precipitated Withdrawal

When an individual is recovering from addiction, experiencing withdrawal is almost inevitable. Withdrawal occurs when a person in recovery suffers a combination of mental and physical side effects after quitting or reducing intake of an addictive substance. Withdrawal symptoms differ and range in extremity depending on the former drug of use and the individual’s psychological and physical attributes. However, some may also experience an intensified form of withdrawal in response to the medication prescribed throughout medication-assisted treatment with buprenorphine. This is known as precipitated withdrawal.

What is Precipitated Withdrawal?

Precipitated withdrawal will typically occur when an antagonist drug is authorized to a person that is transitioning into recovery and is fully reliant on agonist drugs. An agonist drug (methadone, buprenorphine) activates and connects to the opioid receptors in the brain. In contrast, an antagonist drug (naloxone, naltrexone) connects to the receptors and then prohibits them from generating the proper response. Precipitated withdrawal refers to when a person consumes Naltrexone too early on—prior to a proper detox— they are likely to experience drastic withdrawal symptoms.

Although buprenorphine is an agonist, it falls under the group known as “partial opioid agonist”— a drug that stimulates the opioid receptors, only partially. While partial agonist opioids can assist in lessening withdrawal symptoms when administered properly, they have the potential to cause precipitated withdrawal. For this reason, it is crucial that guests aren’t prescribed too early on in the withdrawal process. In order for buprenorphine to be used as a treatment for withdrawal, the body must be completely void of opiates.

What Are the Symptoms of Precipitated Withdrawal?

Withdrawal symptoms in the recovery process are intense as is and they vary from individual to individual. Precipitated withdrawal symptoms are known to be much worse than that of the general withdrawal symptoms in treatment. 

Symptoms consist of:

  • Severe anxiety and aggravation 
  • Muscle aches and pain
  • Fever
  • Excessive Vomiting
  • Digestive issues
  • Chills
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Dilated pupils
  • Low blood pressure
  • Increased heart rate

Some health risks of precipitated withdrawal can include dehydration and electrolyte imbalance due to sweating and vomiting. Depending on how extreme, the symptoms may cause health problems that could potentially lead to hospitalization.

How to Stop Precipitated Withdrawal

When experiencing typical withdrawal from opiates, studies have shown that microdosing with naloxone or buprenorphine (Suboxone) will help to quickly relieve your pain from the symptoms. In order for naloxone or suboxone to be effective, the guests body must be completely rid of any other opiates. Other remedies for withdrawal are obtainable for those trying to avoid opioids. You can ask your prescriber for alternative medications that will indirectly mitigate the severity of the symptoms. In the meantime, it is of high priority to stay hydrated even if you are not necessarily thirsty. Keep isopropyl alcohol nearby— slightly sniffing it at a safe distance will help to reduce the nausea. 

Most importantly, be sure to relax. When you’re experiencing withdrawal symptoms and not feeling all that great, the worst thing you could do is panic and stress yourself out. Stress and panic makes situations as well as your symptoms ten times worse. Find easy, quick ways to relax and destress right where you’re at. Make yourself comfortable and attempt to take your mind off of the discomfort you’re feeling. You can begin to distract yourself through your favorite movie or show, reading, calling a friend or family member, etc. 

How Long Does Precipitated Withdrawal Last?

With Suboxone as the responsible drug, precipitated withdrawal symptoms follow abruptly and last anywhere from several hours up to an entire day. The symptoms from Suboxone often occur anywhere from one to two hours after the first dose. Naltrexone-induced withdrawals typically occur within a few minutes after the first dose and can last up to two whole days. Depending on how extensive the symptoms are will revolve around the guests dose of choice.

How to Avoid Precipitated Withdrawal

Educating guests on the difference between agonist and antagonist drugs is vital when they’re transitioning into recovery. If individuals are not knowledgable about the medications that could potentially harm rather than heal—they might find out once it’s too late. Precipitated withdrawal should be common knowledge in recovery so that all are aware of how to avoid it. 

Reach Out

At Royal Life Centers, it is our sole mission to supply you with the addiction treatment services best suited for you. For that purpose, our admissions specialists can direct you to one of our outreach providers that can help you receive the treatment you’re looking for.

If you or a loved one is struggling with substance abuse, please feel free to reach out to us at 877-RECOVERY. Our addiction specialists are available 24/7 to assist you through this time and find hope in recovery.

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