Drug Addiction Treatment
man struggles with symptoms of precipitated withdrawal
By BrightView
Author Rhonda Roper, LCSW, LISW
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Rhonda Roper, LCSW, LISW

Rhonda serves as BrightView Health’s Vice President of Quality Operations. Prior to joining BrightView in 2020, Rhonda has over 18 years’... read more

Published: January 23, 2022
Updated: January 3, 2022

Many people avoid going into treatment for substance use disorder because they are worried about withdrawal symptoms. Treatment centers now offer medication assisted treatment to help manage these symptoms to get you through withdrawal in comfort. However, some medications can instigate immediate withdrawal if administered too soon after your last dose of opioids or alcohol.

If you’re dependent on opioids, going from a full agonist, like heroin, to a partial agonist, like buprenorphine, can be enough to trigger precipitated withdrawal. But if you’re already experiencing precipitated withdrawal, a dose of buprenorphine can provide relief. As a partial agonist, it won’t replicate the effects of a full agonist, like heroin. But its partial activation of the opioid receptors will be enough to ease your symptoms without the risk of an overdose.

If you need help with substance use disorder, reach out to BrightView. Our caring team is standing by to help get you started toward recovery.

Give us a call today at 888.501.9865 to learn more about our medication assisted treatment programs.

What Is Precipitated Withdrawal?

While you may be familiar with the concept of withdrawal, you may not have heard of precipitated withdrawal. Classic withdrawal symptoms result from stopping or reducing one’s intake of drugs are alcohol. On the other hand, precipitated withdrawal is triggered by using a medication that blocks the effects of opioids. The primary difference between classic withdrawal and precipitated withdrawal is the instigator.

So how does precipitated withdrawal happen? Medications used as part of a medication assisted treatment program need to be carefully timed out. Suboxone and buprenorphine are partial opioid agonists that reduce the effects of opioids. Suboxone also contains naloxone, which reverses the effects of opioids. If a person still has drugs in their system, a medication that blocks or reverses the effects can cause abrupt and severe withdrawal symptoms.

What Are Common Precipitated Withdrawal Symptoms?

The effects of taking partial opioid agonists when opioid drugs remain in your system can lead to highly uncomfortable precipitated withdrawal symptoms. This type of withdrawal happens quickly because the medications effectively reverse or block opioids from fully interacting with brain receptors. Some common precipitated withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Stomach cramps
  • Muscle aches and pains
    Excessive sweating
  • Diarrhea
  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure
  • Insomnia
  • Depression and suicidal thoughts

Precipitated withdrawal is potentially dangerous, especially if your opioid use history includes many years of use and high doses. The resulting depression and suicidal thoughts could lead to self-harm or worse. Also, excessive sweating and diarrhea could cause severe dehydration. For these reasons, it is essential that you seek emergency treatment if you believe you may be experiencing precipitated withdrawal.

How Can You Avoid Precipitated Withdrawal?

While precipitated withdrawal can be highly uncomfortable, the good news is that it is avoidable. To help reduce your risk of precipitated withdrawal, consider the following tips:

  • You should wait at least 12 hours after your last dose of short-acting opioids to take a partial opioid agonist like Suboxone or buprenorphine. Short-acting opioids include fentanyl, heroin, and oxycodone.
  • You should wait at least 24 to 48 hours after your last dose of long-acting opioids to use a partial opioid agonist. Methadone and OxyContin are two commonly used long-acting opioids.
  • Be completely honest with your treatment team about the last time you used drugs and which types you used. They need to know this information to determine whether the substances may still be in your system. This can help them develop an appropriate medication assisted treatment plan that will not cause precipitated withdrawal symptoms.

The above preventative methods can significantly reduce the chances that you will experience precipitated withdrawal. If you happen to experience precipitated withdrawal symptoms, your treatment professionals can help alleviate the discomfort. They may administer additional doses of partial opioid agonist medications, start you on intravenous fluids, and provide you with medications to address pain and nausea.

BrightView: Helping You Get Through Withdrawal Safely and Comfortably

BrightView can help you get through withdrawal in comfort. We carefully assess your needs for medication assisted treatment to prevent the incidence of precipitated withdrawal.

Give us a call today at 888.501.9865 to start feeling better tomorrow.