dope sick symptoms

The term “dope sick” refers to the condition of experiencing withdrawal symptoms due to opiate addiction. The person may initially discover they are addicted to prescription painkillers when they stop taking the pills and begin to feel intense flu-like symptoms. More commonly, those addicted to heroin will refer to this condition as being dope sick, which fuels the need to obtain more of the drug.

When someone experiences these highly unpleasant dope sick symptoms they may eventually become motivated to seek treatment for the opiate addiction. When arriving at this juncture, the idea of going through detox may seem insurmountable, which is why someone considering addiction recovery should first undergo detox in a medical detox program. Without this important support, chances are that the individual will never complete the detox process, therefore never getting addiction treatment.

For individuals considering rehab after experiencing dope sick symptoms as a result of heroin or opioid withdrawal, it helps to have a general understanding of the recovery process. It is important to grasp that detox is insufficient for a sustained recovery to happen; treatment involves several steps, each leading to the next phase of recovery. This information can help one prepare for treatment and improve the opportunity for recovery success.

What Causes Dope Sick Symptoms?

When someone has become addicted or chemically dependent on heroin or prescription opioids, and either runs out of their supply or attempts to cut back or quit, they will experience dope sick symptoms. These symptoms are spurred by the central nervous system attempting to recalibrate and stabilize when the drug is withheld. Over the period of drug use, the brain has made accommodations to the presence of the opiate, culminating in altered brain chemistry. When the drug is not ingested as expected, the central nervous system reacts with the following withdrawal symptoms:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Muscle aches and pain
  • Excessive sweating
  • Shaking
  • Mood swings
  • Lethargy
  • Runny nose
  • Tearing eyes
  • Dry mouth
  • Agitation
  • Paranoia
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Drug cravings

Steps of Opiate Addiction Treatment and Recovery

When initiating treatment for an opiate addiction, it must be understood that detoxification is only the first step of the process. It is helpful to understand that addiction recovery is a life-long journey that will involve various steps along the recovery continuum. These steps include:

Medical Detox

Before beginning treatment for changing addiction behaviors and lifestyle habits it is essential that the individual successfully complete detox and withdrawal. In order to better ensure that detox is completed, a medically monitored detox program is recommended. In a medical detox the individual will be watched carefully over the 7-10 day detox process, with vital signs recorded and medical interventions provided to help ease the intensity of the dope sick symptoms, which will peak on days 2-3.

Opiate Detox Timeline

The detox and withdrawal experience will vary in severity from one person to another, from mild to severe. This is due to certain factors that can influence how intense the withdrawal symptoms become. These factors include:

  • The length of history abusing opiates
  • The daily dosage of opiates
  • The individual’s general health status
  • Whether there is a poly-drug addiction
  • Whether there is a co-occurring mental health disorder

The detox process will occur in two basic stages, beginning 6-12 hours after the last dose. Factors that influence the timeline include the type of opiate (heroin, prescription medications) and the method of delivery (intravenous, pill form, smoking, snorting) as these affect the metabolism of the drug. Generally an opiate detox takes 5-7 days and peak in severity on days 2-3.

The stages of opiate detox include:

Early stage: Withdrawal symptoms in the early stage of detox include:

  • Eyes tearing up
  • Nose running
  • Muscle aches
  • Joint pain
  • Insomnia
  • Sweating
  • Fever
  • Excessive yawning
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Racing heart
  • Anxiety
  • Agitation

Late stage: Days 2-3 when symptoms are most acute including:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Chills, goosebumps
  • Stomach cramping
  • Depression
  • Drug cravings

The post-acute withdrawal symptoms (PAWS) are present in some individuals with a long history of opiate addiction. These are usually psychological in nature and can linger for a few months after detox is completed. The PAWS symptoms might include depression, anxiety, and cravings.

Addiction Treatment

After detox is completed the individual progresses to the addiction treatment phase of recovery. It is recommended that individuals select an extended inpatient program for an opiate addiction, as these will provide a higher level of care and 24-hour support.

The inpatient environment is highly structured and scheduled with several therapeutic activities throughout the day. This keeps the individual in early recovery distracted from craving and engaged in ongoing treatment that is designed to help them make fundamental changes in thoughts and behaviors.

In the addiction treatment phase individuals will participate in the following interventions:

One-on-one talk therapy: Psychotherapy is the primary treatment element for opiate addiction recovery. Therapy involves a clinician who will guide the individual in examining underlying emotional issues that may be a factor in the drug addiction. This allows the individual to process any unresolved pain or trauma and begin the healing process. Therapists utilize evidence-based methods, such as psychodynamic therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), and contingency management (CM). The behavioral therapies guide the individual to identify unhealthy thought patterns that have led to drug-seeking behaviors, and to develop new coping strategies when encountering triggers.

Group counseling sessions: Group therapy provides the important social support needed in recovery. A therapist guides topics of discussion and facilitates the back-and-forth conversation among participants. This format allows members of the group to share their own personal stories, their challenges, goals, and fears while in a safe, supportive space. The group members form a trust bond and will continue to engage in the discussions while offering each other encouragement.

12-step program: Alcoholics Anonymous’ 12-step programming is often integrated into the recovery program itself. This involves introducing the themes of the 12 steps and holding recovery meetings where participants can provide peer support for each other. Some rehabs offer alternatives to the 12-step program, although they, too, involve participation in group meetings.

Family counseling: Opiate addiction can significantly impact the family, resulting in broken relationships and trust bonds. Many rehabs include a family-focus element, inviting family members to join their loved in group sessions. Family counseling sessions provide new communication skills, conflict resolution tips, and anger management techniques, while also exploring any dysfunctional aspects of the family dynamic.

Addiction education: Classes provide the important addiction education component of rehab, including making relapse prevention plans. Relapse prevention involves identifying potential triggers to use, and then define actionable steps to avoid the recurrent drug use.

Medication management: MAT has become a common recovery support element, incrementally moving the individual away from the body’s need for opiates. Buprenorphine and naltrexone are two effective medications that can help sustain recovery.

Holistic activities: These include activities that help reduce stress, such as yoga, mindfulness training, art and music therapy, equine therapy, and massage therapy.

Recreation therapy: Rehabs schedule recreational activities, both indoor and outdoor, to provide some relief from the programming, which helps elevate mood and keep individuals engaged.

Nutritional counseling: Individuals in recovery from opiate addiction are often in poor health. Nutritional counseling helps educate individuals about the importance of a healthy diet in restoring health and vitality in recovery.

Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)

FDA approved medications are available for supporting opiate recovery. The drugs, such as methadone, Suboxone, and naltrexone, act as a replacement for the heroin or prescription opioids and help to incrementally stop the cravings for those drugs. These drugs have the potential to be abused, therefore careful monitoring of the MAT is required.

Continuing Care

After completing the inpatient rehab program, the individual continues to maintain sobriety through several continuing care activities. These include participating regularly in a recovery community such as N.A. or A.A., receiving ongoing outpatient individual and group therapy, and possibly residing in sober living housing for a few months following rehab.

Solutions 4 Recovery Offers Top Tier Opiate Addiction Treatment in Orange County

Solutions 4 Recovery is a leading addiction and dual diagnosis treatment provider located in South Orange County, California. With the expertise of highly trained and respected psychotherapists and addiction treatment professionals heading up an integrated program, Solutions 4 Recovery understands the challenges of overcoming opiate addiction.

At Solutions 4 Recovery, recovery success begins with an individualized treatment plan that takes into consideration the nuances of each client’s recovery needs and goals. Using a combination of evidence-based treatment modalities and holistic activities, Solutions 4 Recovery offers the most advanced treatment elements available today. For more information about the program, please contact Solutions 4 Recovery today at (888) 417-1874.