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Precipitated Withdrawal: Signs, Symptoms, & Treatment

Precipitated Withdrawal: Signs, Symptoms, & Treatment

As the opioid crisis continues, the medication naloxone – which reverses opioid overdose symptoms – has become more and more common. It’s gone from an emergency-only medication that’s only stocked in ambulances and hospitals to something found in most pharmacies and carried by everyday people in their purses and backpacks. However, despite being a medication that’s used to help people recover from drug withdrawal and addiction, naloxone and similar medications can lead to a condition called precipitated withdrawal syndrome.  

What Is Precipitated Withdrawal? 

Prescription medications like Suboxone, Subutex, and naltrexone are all effective in helping people recover from opioid addiction and transition to a sober lifestyle. The medications Subutex and Suboxone are made with the substance buprenorphine, which activates the brain’s opioid receptors. This particular substance is intended to reduce withdrawal symptoms and help patients achieve and sustain sobriety.  

However, precipitated withdrawal occurs when someone takes one of these medications before they’ve adequately detoxed from the opioids they’re addicted to. Taking these medications too early in recovery or using drugs while taking these medications can lead to sudden and severe withdrawal symptoms.  

This is why doctors will have patients undergo medically monitored detox, during which they’re placed on a tapering schedule that gradually reduces their doses. Doctors who plan on treating their clients with Suboxone, Subutex, or naltrexone will then wait a certain period to ensure the individual is fully detoxed before administering any medication. When these medications are administered too soon, precipitated withdrawals can occur.  

Opioid antagonists like naloxone and naltrexone work by blocking opioid receptors from the effects of opioids. In people who are physically dependent on opioids, this sudden loss of signaling from opioid antagonists can trigger precipitated withdrawals.  

Despite not being an opioid antagonist, buprenorphine can also cause precipitated withdrawal. This is because buprenorphine falls into a third group called partial opioid antagonists. These sit on the receptor, blocking it from being activated. However, they only do this partially, which is the equivalent of putting a key in the lock and turning it halfway, which could also lead to withdrawals.   

How Long Does Precipitated Withdrawal Last? 

The symptoms of precipitated withdrawal syndrome may vary in intensity and severity depending on the individual and how far along they were in their opioid detox. However, it’s important to note that these symptoms are far more intense than average opioid withdrawals. Common precipitated withdrawal symptoms include:  

  • Abdominal pain 
  • Altered perception and confusion 
  • Anxiety and agitation 
  • Excessive diarrhea 
  • Fever, sweating, and chills 
  • Headaches 
  • Low blood pressure and elevated heart rate 
  • Nausea and excessive vomiting 
  • Severe muscle aches and pains 

All withdrawal and detox timelines are different for everyone. An individual’s overall health, metabolism, duration, and severity of opioid use can all influence the timeline and severity of withdrawals.   

How to Stop Precipitated Withdrawal 

While some may attempt home remedies to reduce their symptoms, the safest and most effective way to stop precipitated withdrawal is with medical support. Our Banyan rehab center offers detox in Delaware for all kinds of substances, including prescription and illicit opioids.  

Our Delaware rehab center also offers different addiction treatment programs to help clients not only recover physically but also heal mentally and develop relapse prevention skills for sustaining long-term sobriety. 

Call Banyan Treatment Centers today at 888-280-4763 to learn more about our services and how we can help.  


Related Reading:   

Increased Access to Naloxone Can Prevent Opioid Overdose Deaths 

Vivitrol vs. Suboxone 

Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa is the National Director of Digital Marketing and is responsible for a multitude of integrated campaigns and events in the behavioral health and addictions field. All articles have been written by Alyssa and medically reviewed by our Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Darrin Mangiacarne.