How Long Does Opiate Withdrawal Insomnia Last?
Opiates have a special propensity to change brain systems and functions as they mimic endogenous chemicals we use to control thoughts, emotions, behaviors, and central nervous system stimuli. According to the Committee on the Neurobiology of Addictive Disorders, The Scripps Research Institute,” A common response to acute withdrawal and protracted abstinence from all major drugs of abuse is the manifestation of anxiety-like or aversive-like responses.”
Opiate withdrawal insomnia is one of the most common conditions an opiate user will come up against with every attempt to cease use of opiates once tolerance and dependence develops. The condition typically becomes exacerbated the longer the abstinence progresses and can persist in immeasurable durations during a protracted withdrawal phase.
Because opiates are able to produce pleasurable effects that lead to abuse, dependency is likely after repeat doses through a series of neurobiological changes and adaptations to the opiate use. Opiate dependency evolves from the occasional, impulsive, opiate use to compulsive opiate use where the pleasing and positively reinforcing effects that drive use behaviors are accompanied by the negative reinforcements of withdrawals.
According to the NCBI, “The inability to control drug taking is thought to be a complex disease of the brain that strikes the most vulnerable individuals and worsens with recurring drug intoxication.” Cravings for opiates, preoccupations with opiate use and associated behaviors, and the prevention or relief from withdrawals become the primary characteristics of an opiate dependent that supersedes other goals and interests.
Changes in neuronal circuitry and the regulation of the “reward center” of the brain have been heavily researched and found to be predominant forces for motivations to relapse and leading causes for post acute withdrawal syndrome. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), “Growing evidence suggests that neuroadaptive changes outlast physical withdrawal and detoxification.”
A Deeper Look at Insomnia
Most of us grew up with the notion that 8 hours of sleep, daily, is needed to enable us to perform at our best( of course younger children need more and an older adult may need less). Insomnia is a condition that affects all of us at one point or another and if we are lucky, we can make up for the sleep deprivations through following sleep occurrences.
Forced sleep deprivations are common for individuals struggling to keep up with current society expectations and is clearly distinct from insomnia where the hyperarousal disorder keeps the brain overly active and prevents it from cycling through the normal channels of sleep.
Normal channels of sleep involve the cycling through 5 phases; stage 1, 2, 3, 4, and REM (Rapid Eye Movement) with each phase having particular benefits in making sure the mind and body are well rested and rejuvenated or to help you learn and form memories.
According to the National Institutes of Health, “Not only does the quantity of your sleep matter, but also the quality is important as well. How well rested you are and how well you function the next day depend on your total sleep time and how much of the various stages of sleep you get each night.”
Effects and Consequences of Insomnia
Inadequate sleep affects the person’s ability to concentrate and form memories. It affects their ability to manage stress and can result in a number of mood disturbances including depression, anxiety, aggression, and suicidal tendencies. There are also increased physical health risks for diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, obesity, and decreased immune system functioning.
According to the Institute of Medicine (US), “The most visible consequences are errors in judgment contributing to disastrous events such as the space shuttle Challenger (Walsh et al., 2005). Less visible consequences of sleep conditions are far more prevalent, and they take a toll on nearly every key indicator of public health: mortality, morbidity, performance, accidents and injuries, functioning and quality of life, family well-being, and health care utilization.”
Opiate Withdrawal Insomnia
According to the Scripps Research Institute study, “Dysregulation of the brain emotional systems that mediate arousal and stress is a key component of the pathophysiology of drug addiction.” Opiate withdrawal insomnia is like a “double whammy”. If the person doesn’t get enough rest, they cannot heal from the physical and psychological turmoil of opiate use consequences and those consequences will continue to fuel the insomnia the person experiences.
Opiate abusers are typically, more disadvantaged in their social functioning from deteriorated health, relationship damages, loss of employment, finances, housing, arrests, etc., and these issues, coupled with decreased function of reward circuits, loss of executive control, stress and emotional dysfunctions, impede the recovery progress from opiate withdrawal insomnia.
How Long Does Opiate Withdrawal Insomnia Last?
Most people experience opiate withdrawal insomnia from the very first day of their detoxification process and they fully recognize the impact that the withdrawal stress is having on their minds and bodies. While they are struggling to resist the cravings to use more opiates, neurotransmitters in the brain are struggling to counter-adapt to the accumulated neurobiological changes that have occurred.
Getting back to normal takes time and most often, the person is dealing with a frayed or damaged nervous system that increases their susceptibility to feel pain, stress, and negative emotions as they face the consequences of their opiate use and deal with the efforts of recovery.
Until they can identify problematic areas and make appropriates changes, are able to cope with their problems in a healthy and productive manner, and can improve their physical, psychological, and social functioning, the opiate withdrawal insomnia is likely to persist for weeks or months.