Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Embrace Withdrawal




The What


Embrace withdrawal?  Is this bitch nuts?

If you've made the decision to become dependent on opioids or other drugs knowing full well that they can cause physical or psychological withdrawal, you have no right to act a fool when the inevitable happens:  you run out of meds, money or otherwise have to face the beast.  Even if it wasn't a conscious "choice" in the typical sense, you're here now and must deal with what's laid out in front of you.  As a consenting adult you can't simply scream at mommy/daddy/grandma for money, forge a prescription or go steal shit to finance your habit.  That behavior gives all of us a bad name and puts you at risk for consequences like prison or even violence, none of which needs to be part of a drug-using lifestyle simply because you get high.  If addicts want to be treated as humans worthy of respect and compassion, that's a two-way street.  We have to be respectful of others and not violate their safety or property because of a situation that has nothing to do with them. 

I can't tell you how many times I've had to take cold turkey "breaks" from my opiate of choice in my almost 17 years of daily use.  It's miserable:  cold sweats, irritability, palpitations, diarrhea, every orifice in your body running like you've got some kind of snot-producing disease.  And the nightmares.  They could qualify as a mental illness all their own.  So vivid and terrifying.  Time slows down, everything feels surreal.  It's like the veil is peeled back and months or years of suppressed feelings come to the surface at once.  Some people also vomit.  Your body aches like you've been beaten by a gang of baseball-bat wielding maniacs.  I could go on but you get the picture.  

I recently ran out of codeine for the first time since starting this particular opiate.  Poor planning + the mail slowdown due to COVID, weather and the holidays = a VERY unpleasant time for this blogger.  It was the highest dose of opiates I've withdrawn from in a long time (in the neighborhood of 730 mg per day) and I didn't have much chance to taper.  Oopsie.  

You may be saying "codeine is NOTHING compared to heroin/fentanyl/insert other potent opioid here".  And you're right.  It's not.  But that's exactly why I've made the decision to avoid injecting or otherwise using super-potent drugs.  I don't want to face the withdrawal.  Plus, I have used stronger things like OxyContin in the past but currently this is what I have access to, so shove it.  This isn't a pissing contest.  It's about choices.  Even addicts have them.  


The How


If you're currently stuck between a rock and hard place using a potent drug and want to quit or move to something weaker, there are options.  If you're an opiate user without access to methadone or Suboxone, go online and buy kratom now.  It's legal in most states and very affordable.  It will not get you "high" like dope but will take the edge off the worst withdrawals if taken in sufficient quantities.  You will likely have to experiment with different strains and maybe even different vendors, but don't give up.  This is far and away your best option for DIY withdrawal management or tapering if you can't get professional help.  Here's a starter guide with everything you need to know if you're a beginner.  

If for some reason you can't get kratom, Imodium (loperamide) in recommended doses of 1-4 tablets will stop the worst withdrawal symptoms like diarrhea and cramping.  But don't take high doses as it can cause dangerous heart arrhythmias and death.  Some people recommend DXM as an opiate withdrawal treatment option but I've never tried it myself.  Avoid driving or doing other dangerous activities if you ingest it, as it's a dissociative.  Cannabis can help with the nausea while taking the edge off pain and insomnia, as can ginger root--a powerful anti-inflammatory and nausea remedy.  Ditto for older sedating antihistamines like Benadryl and doxylamine in normal recommended doses.  

Bottom line:  these solutions address the physical aspects of addiction only.  You'll need therapy and/or counseling to work through the root causes of your drug problem and the psychological addiction, which is often the hardest part to overcome.  There are sliding-scale and affordable treatment options in most states but it may take some time to access them.  Be persistent and don't give up.  In the meantime, implement harm reduction into your daily life when you use drugs so you don't die or irreversibly harm yourself.  Physical dependence and withdrawal are taxing but not life-threatening.*  Not as long as you take care of yourself.  You deserve it.  

If you're facing withdrawal, embrace it as part of the journey.  Because at the end of the day, that's all it is.  Use it as a time to reflect on your drug use and your life in general.  (Just remember that the massive dip in endorphins/dopamine is coloring your perception and this isn't how sobriety truly feels in the long term).  You can't have the highs without the lows, and there are some deep truths and insights to be gained during those lows... plus they make the highs feel SO much better by comparison, be they drug-induced or otherwise.  


--- Written during codeine withdrawal with the aid of kratom.


*Warning:  If you're withdrawing from depressants like alcohol, benzodiazepines or Ambien, seek medical help immediately as this can cause dangerous or fatal withdrawals.  Never attempt to quit these substances cold turkey or without the help of a medical professional.  




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