In 2017, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services declared the United States officially had an Opioid Epidemic. The most recent statistics, from 2016-2017, are staggering.
- Over 130 Americans are dying daily from an opioid-related drug overdose.
- Approximately 81,000 people tried heroin for the first time, many who were driven to illicit drugs when they were no longer able to obtain prescription opioids.
- Over 42,000 people died from a fatal opioid overdose while over 15,000 died from a heroin overdose.
Unfortunately, the crisis is still growing as 2 million people abused prescription opioids for the first time. Withdrawal symptoms drive prescription drug users to heroin, and heroin users who attempt to quit find it virtually impossible, both because of the withdrawal symptoms and the lack of support to deal with their addiction.
When sufferers do get help, it is often in the form of more opioids, such as the drug Suboxone or methadone. These drugs ease withdrawal symptoms, and they don't produce as great a high, but they are still addictive.
Thankfully, the first non-opioid treatment for management of opioid withdrawal symptoms in adults was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in May of 2018. Here is what you should know about opioid withdrawal and this non addictive opioid relief treatment.
What Are Withdrawal Symptoms Like?
Opiate withdrawal is unpleasant, to say the least. Sufferers experience extreme muscle cramps, stomach cramps, anxiety, depression, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, and severe cravings. Most are unable to get even a brief respite from these symptoms because they are unable to sleep, which can cause its own problems.
These physical symptoms will last anywhere from one week to over a month before they begin to lessen, but mental and emotional addiction is typically still there. It's easy to see why so many choose to go back to using.
What Is The New FDA-Approved Non-Opioid Treatment?
Lofexidine hydrochloride, going by the trade name Lucemyra, has been approved to treat the first two weeks of withdrawal. In may also be integrated into a long-term plan for managing opioid addiction. Unfortunately, it is not without its risks as with most drugs, it has side effects. Low blood pressure and abnormally slow heart rate are two of them. The drug may also lower tolerance to opioid usage in the future, which could lead to overdose if a patient returns to illicit opioids. These are small risks most people are happy to take on, however.
Are There Other Non-Opioid Treatments?
There aren't other prescription medications, but users who are committed to stopping and are mentally prepared for the battle can use other substances to ease symptoms. For example, melatonin, a natural sleep supplement, can be used to treat the insomnia. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen, can be used to relieve muscle pain.