Clinical Opiate Withdrawal Scale
Opium, the ancient ancestor of modern-day heroin, morphine and prescription painkillers, is the oldest drug on earth. Mesopotamians who cultivated the opium poppy in 3,400 B.C. named it “joy plant.”
Heroin, morphine and codeine are natural opiates derived from the opium poppy. Legally prescribed drugs like Demerol, Vicodin and OxyContin are synthetically produced opiates commonly called opioids.
Today, the U.S. leads the world in opioid use, consuming 80 percent of the global supply. A nationwide government survey conducted in 2014 revealed that almost 2 million Americans ages 12 and older had a serious opioid problem. Opioid-related deaths quadrupled between 1999 and 2014.
There’s been a dramatic rise in heroin use over recent years; opioid abusers who can’t get any more refills hit the streets looking for a substitution. Given that opiates are some of the most addictive drugs around, that’s not surprising. Ordinary people who have never used drugs recreationally get hooked every day when they take painkillers following a surgery, car accident or sports injury. Nearly 1 in 4 first-time heroin users become addicted.
Once the brain builds tolerance to opiates, only higher and more frequent doses will temporarily satisfy strong cravings. The vicious cycle begins.
We at Ocean Hills Recovery, an opiate addiction treatment center are glad that you’ve reached out to us. It’s almost impossible to quit opioids without assistance, and our caring staff members are committed to helping people like you get well and make a new start. Whether on an inpatient or outpatient basis, we hope you’ll lean on us throughout your journey to recovery.
Withdrawing From Opiates
Depending on your age, your overall physical health and the severity of your addiction, opiate withdrawal symptoms vary widely. Some people stabilize in just a few days while others require weeks or even months.
We’ll assess your needs for opiate addiction treatment using a standard tool called the Clinical Opiate Withdrawal Scale. If you come across the acronym COWS, that’s what it refers to.
Opiate withdrawal is nothing like alcohol, cocaine or barbiturate withdrawal. Ongoing management and treatment goals differ as well. That’s why the COWS was designed specifically for opiate and opioid users. An age-appropriate assessment is used to get a better idea of how difficult and uncomfortable withdrawal is likely to be.
The scale is based on eleven factors that both the clinician and the patient score:
- Pulse rate at rest
- Pupil size
- Joint or bone aches
- Runny nose or teary eyes not attributed to a cold or allergies
- Gastrointestinal upset
- Irritability or anxiety
- Goose bumps
There are descriptions and a rating scale for each category. Your total score will reflect either mild, moderate, moderately severe or severe withdrawal. Our staff will know how to best proceed from there.
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What to Expect During Opiate Withdrawal
One thing is for sure: Withdrawal should never be attempted on one’s own. Drugs have long-lasting effects that alter the way people think, behave, function and feel. No one can predict how the body will react to suddenly quitting a drug, and in rare, extreme cases, symptoms can be life-threatening.
Not only that, but people who undergo withdrawal in their own beds at home are far more likely to give up and start using again. Even those who initially succeed without professional help have slim chances of avoiding relapse.
The clinical setting is best. A trained, experienced medical team will monitor your condition 24/7 and provide encouragement and emotional support. As toxins are flushed from your system, you’ll be rehydrated. Nutrients lost to drug use will be replaced. When you’re physically stable and mentally alert, you can fully focus on your continuing treatment. We use a comprehensive assortment of tried-and-true methods.
For most prescription opiates, discomfort starts within eight to 12 hours of the last dose. Symptoms of methadone withdrawal don’t kick in as quickly, but they’re typically more severe and last longer. Discontinuing a fast-acting drug like heroin could bring on withdrawal symptoms in as few as five or six hours.
You probably won’t experience all the symptoms listed here, but you’re still better off in our care through withdrawal:
- Powerful drug cravings
- Bad mood
- Aches and pains
- Runny nose
- Watery eyes
- Difficulty sleeping
- Tremors or twitching
- Loss of appetite
- Increased blood pressure and respiratory rate
- Racing pulse
- Vomiting or diarrhea
Opiate Addiction Recovery and Ongoing Support
Recovering addicts who have been clean for some time never regret going through rehab. If you accept our help with your withdrawal and ongoing treatment, you’ll meet many of them and hear their stories.
It takes just one phone call to start the healing process and reclaim your life. We’re ready for you, and we sincerely hope that you make that call now.
About the author:
Greg opened his home and heart to alcoholics and addicts in 2003. He is a Certified Addictions Treatment Counselor (CATC). Starting in 2009 Greg has fostered the growth of Ocean Hills Recovery into one of the most respected and effective treatment centers in the area and has been working with people with addictions since March of 2001. Greg believes in a holistic approach to recovery. His focus is on drug alcohol addiction treatment with a combination of 12 Step work, therapy and counseling, and the rejuvenation of the body through healthful eating and exercise. He has designed his program to foster a family-like atmosphere and believes that people in recovery are just beginning their lives. He encourages the people he works with to learn to enjoy life in sobriety. Greg is married to Nicole; they have two adorable sons together and an energetic yellow Labrador Retriever.