Opiates and opioids comprise a drug class that includes naturally-derived substances like morphine, as well as synthetic pain relievers like oxycodone and hydrocodone. Heroin is also a semi-synthetic opioid. Prescription opioids are given to patients for pain relief, while heroin is an illicit street drug with no accepted medical uses in the U.S. Opiates and opioids do well in treating pain, but they have severe, adverse side effects.
In addition to causing nausea, vomiting and constipation, opiates and opioids also cause addiction and physical dependence. When someone uses opiates, even as prescribed, those opiates activate certain receptors in the person’s brain. As a result, the substance triggers a euphoric high, particularly when the drugs are taken at high doses. The brain’s reward system is activated as well, which can lead to the development of an addiction. Physical dependence is different from addiction. Dependence can occur regardless of whether or not someone is addicted to opiates or opioids.
Someone who is dependent on opiates or opioids will have physical symptoms if they try to stop using those drugs. The body may feel like it is going into shock; this is withdrawal. The longer or more heavily someone uses opiates, the more severe and long-lasting withdrawal is likely to be. Withdrawal from opiates and opioids isn’t usually deadly, but it is highly uncomfortable and difficult for most people who are physically dependent on these drugs. Opiate withdrawal occurs as someone’s body tries to readjust to operating without these substances in the system. There are varying degrees of opiate withdrawal ranging from mild to severe. Some of the symptoms include anxiety, insomnia, sweating, yawning and gastrointestinal symptoms like vomiting and diarrhea.
There are different routes people can take as they go through opiate withdrawal. One option is to stop using opioids or opiates cold turkey. This tends to be the most difficult approach and also the least successful because most people who go this route relapse. There is also the option to do an at-home detox, but this frequently leads to relapse as well. The best course of action for opiate withdrawal is a medically-supervised detox at a professional facility. In this instance, certain medications can reduce or alleviate withdrawal symptoms. These medications can also lower the risk of relapse.
People often wonder if using Flexeril for opiate withdrawal is an option. Flexeril is a prescription, brand-name drug. (The generic name is cyclobenzaprine.) Flexeril is used as a muscle relaxant, and it specifically treats muscle spasms. It’s believed Flexeril works on the central nervous system. Flexeril is similar in chemical structure to tricyclic antidepressants. Mitigating opiate withdrawal symptoms is one of the possible off-label uses of Flexeril. Because Flexeril is a depressant of the CNS and a muscle relaxant, some evidence points to the Flexeril as being able to help reduce muscle aches, anxiety and insomnia experienced during withdrawal.
There are some things to consider with the use of Flexeril for opiate withdrawal, however. First, trying to self-medicate as you go through opiate withdrawal is dangerous. Not only are the chances of relapse higher, but you should never take prescription medications without the supervision of a physician. Flexeril is also a CNS depressant, so if a person takes it and then relapses on opiates or opioids, they may overdose. Any questions about Flexeril for opiate withdrawal should be answered by a medical professional.
If you or a loved one is struggling with the weight of addiction, please contact The Recovery Village. We offer individualized, medically-supervised detox as well as a variety of inpatient and outpatient substance abuse treatment programs.
The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.