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The agony of opioid withdrawal — and what doctors should tell patients about it | Travis Rieder

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The United States accounts for five percent of the world's population but consumes almost 70 percent of the total global opioid supply, creating an epidemic that has resulted in tens of thousands of deaths each year. How did we get here, and what can we do about it? In this personal talk, Travis Rieder recounts the painful, often-hidden struggle of opioid withdrawal and reveals how doctors who are quick to prescribe (and overprescribe) opioids aren't equipped with the tools to eventually get people off the meds.

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60 Comments on The agony of opioid withdrawal — and what doctors should tell patients about it | Travis Rieder

  1. The two morals of the story folks: don’t ride motorcycles and don’t blindly listen to what authority figures in white coats say is best for you. Follow those two pointers and you’ll be just fine.

    • Dominique Z // 20th July 2018 at 6:36 pm // Reply

      Doctor Cthulhu wow that’s an impressive decline! Good call. We need more doctors like you in this discussion. Is it because there are different laws for those types of things in Canada? would it be possible to do that same thing in the US too? That’s encouraging

    • Doctor Cthulhu // 20th July 2018 at 6:54 pm // Reply

      Dominique Z the differences are huge in medicine. The US medical system is run as a HUGE part of the actual economy. Where in Canada it’s a very small part, and mostly government funded. So pharma companies don’t wield as much political power.

      Plus, Canada’s current government is a good mix of left and right politics. Policing is run more rightwing, while social services are run very left wing. You get a very nuanced approach to public problems that way.
      Canada has the exact same opioid problem as the US throughout the 2000s to now. But change came easily, since perks to doctors, and to politicians, weren’t a part of the “freedom of speech” debate; which it is very much in the US.
      It really limits the power that any company can wield in government. That’s a major problem the US is going to HAVE to overcome somehow.

      Electing politicians who aren’t limited by the right-left camp is going be a huge step. It doesn’t matter if they are Republicans or Democrats. Politicians who are willing to compromise, and take a nuanced approach to serious problems, are the saviours of democracy.
      Plus, an electorate who doesn’t penalize politicians who do so, that’s the a major step for change.

    • Doctor Cthulhu Thank you for that information. Can you please shed some light on pharmaceutical companies of India.

    • Doctor Cthulhu // 20th July 2018 at 11:18 pm // Reply

      F A Khan That’s not really something I know much about. The only real things, are they are they are now used as major suppliers for N.American/European pharmaceutical companies, and India is where they offload the malformed pills.
      There is nothing wrong medicinally with the pills, but they will be the wrong shade or shape, so they won’t/can’t be sold in other markets. It does help keep costs down for medication in India.
      The cultural apprehension against using pharmaceutical narcotics has really helped your country. It got to the point where Bush Jr. was trying to force your Prime Minister to change your medical laws, so american/euro companies could start making tons of money there. Thankfully, your side never capitulated, and you haven’t been subject to the horrors or an opioid epidemic.

      But, here’s a thing. No matter how bad it looks in N.America for opioids/narcotics. It could always be worse. At any given time it’s 1in5 use a form of painkiller/narcotic(*that’s including marijuana* the main drug of choice) in the US.
      That number jumps up to 2in5 people in Iran. The largest users of PURE OPIUM in the world, both by users, and the amount they use. That sheer amount of abusers has effectively shrunk the Iranian economy by half. AND, because they want to give off the impression of being a very Pious/Religious country; Iran won’t even acknowledge they have a problem with Narcotics. Even seeking help for addiction in that country, most of the time, gets you sent straight to jail, since you are admitting past drug possession.

    • Doctor Cthulhu Well, if Iran will keep on acting that way, it will only get worse.

      The winds in India are also changing with increasing privatisation. The hospital bills are rising. The poor already are disadvantaged.
      Drug abuse is also kicking in among the upper classes of the society. What to do?
      Sometimes, it feels quite depressing.

  2. Jillian Brunelli // 20th July 2018 at 4:21 pm // Reply

    natural child birth to triplets… a walk in the park compared to opioid withdrawal.

  3. Adamus Witcombe // 20th July 2018 at 4:24 pm // Reply

    I was on 20 dihydrocodeine per day, I kicked it about 3 months ago , withdrawal was easy after a week I was back to normal, however I did use CBD daily . This made it much easier

    • KnightsWithoutATable // 20th July 2018 at 8:31 pm // Reply

      CBD, just like THC, really need to have more research done on them. There are synthetic, pure versions that have been developed of both, but the DEA limits their use to extreme cancer patients only in the US.

    • Alto's Music Lab // 20th July 2018 at 9:32 pm // Reply

      pot users cancer free, just an anecdote, go back to sleep

    • Doctor Cthulhu // 20th July 2018 at 11:25 pm // Reply

      This is the great thing about Canada’s upcoming legalization of everything Marijuana related. Different Canniboids can be researched easily, and not have the stigma of its Class1 scheduling as in the US for researchers.
      4 Provinces(as if today) are setting up medical research centers to study Marijuana to great effect. It could help revolutionize the treatment of people both suffering from pain, and those withdrawing off of strong Narcotics.

  4. Morty Sanchez // 20th July 2018 at 4:28 pm // Reply

    Every TED talk it seems fills with right wing bots and sockpuppets within 10 minutes, siezing upon a key word to screach conspiracy theory talking points.

    I wonder how they will flood this thread…

    • Morty Sanchez // 20th July 2018 at 4:51 pm // Reply

      Thats exactly what a *insert nefarious actor* would say!


    • TheMicado16 // 20th July 2018 at 5:17 pm // Reply

      How dose this have anything to do with politics?

    • Davey Crocko // 20th July 2018 at 5:46 pm // Reply

      Morty Sanchez yet you’re the one bringing it up, searching it out. When you’re a hammer everything is a nail. Most poeple, sane people see what some TedX talks have become, they disagree with points made and positions pushed. Most people came here because most people have been effected by opiate abuse personally or from someone they know. Grow up

    • Morty Sanchez // 20th July 2018 at 5:55 pm // Reply

      Davey Crocko
      You’re a hammer.

    • Fabled Creature // 20th July 2018 at 6:28 pm // Reply

      Davey Crocko thanks for this comment! I probably disagree with your ideas on this topic. But I fully support you coming here to voice them. I like to hear what other humans think. I learn from them. I have strong opinions and it’s a great place to express them. I’ve seen a lot of these where humans with opposing viewpoints play nice with each other even if they strongly disagree. That’s just healthy.

  5. Fatih Çoban // 20th July 2018 at 4:29 pm // Reply

    “Doctors : Can’t do with them , can’t do without them”

  6. Kate Harrington // 20th July 2018 at 4:33 pm // Reply

    You are a hero. Pure and simple. Thank you for your voice. Katie Gathmann

  7. Jacks Parrow // 20th July 2018 at 4:34 pm // Reply

    There must be some opioid-withdrawal resistant gene in my family, even if I do painkillers for 3 months straight I only feel slightly irritable, less hungry and with a bit of insomnia(fixed by melotonin) not for everyone!

    • Borpheous Maximus // 20th July 2018 at 6:27 pm // Reply

      Yeah me too, I feel a little flu like symptoms and get diarrhea for three days, and that’s after taking (used to) 90-120mg of oxycodone for months at a time. Oh and a little RLS when I try to sleep. But that’s all over with now.

    • Lacey Brown // 20th July 2018 at 6:47 pm // Reply

      Jacks Parrow
      You are exactly right, actually! There literally is an Opioid Receptor Gene that protects against substance abuse in general and opioid dependence in particular. I have a friend like you, we used to be together constantly. We did the same drugs, at the same time, almost always, and she always seemed fine with or without drugs while I would be miserable, lol. I used to think I was just unmotivated and had no will power, but in hind sight I can say almost certainly that it had much, if not all, to do with genetics.

    • Mikhail Nadjkovic // 20th July 2018 at 7:02 pm // Reply

      I wish i had this trait. Maybe in the future with gene therapy

    • @Jacks Parrow
      Some people dont get withdrawal symptoms the first few times they stop cold turkey. Its completely normal. However they definitely will start experiencing withdrawal at some point if they continue taking opioids.

    • Mikhail Nadjkovic // 20th July 2018 at 9:57 pm // Reply

      Mad araH That may be the case for me then, because at first it wasn’t so bad. I’ve been hospitalized several times though, so I guess you could consider myself sensitive about the topic. I’m currently on buprenorphine for now until I can figure out what to do

  8. Wow man truly inspirational that’s awesome you make it thru it. How is the pain in your foot these days?

  9. crossblades400 // 20th July 2018 at 4:39 pm // Reply

    I’m surprised he didn’t mention Narcotics Anonymous. Disappointed..

  10. had an alcoholic that lives at the bar tell me that heroin users start with marijuana. This guy has also smoked weed his whole life with actual pot growers. Thats how well information is spread known about opioids.

    • A lot of heroine users start with marijuana. The vast majority of weed smokers never take heroine. Heroine addicts would start it with or without weed….

    • Nearly everyone has smoked weed so of course heroin users will fall into that category, many weed smokers also have been muderers, rapists, burglers etc etc

  11. For The Love Of // 20th July 2018 at 4:48 pm // Reply

    I had major foot surgery, on it for almost 6 months… I became physically dependent. It was a life battle, and NO ONE had told me about withdrawals.

    • Alex Anastasi // 20th July 2018 at 8:51 pm // Reply

      At the risk of sounding insensetive, what planet where you living on to *not* know that opiates are highly addictive?

  12. FIlippo abate // 20th July 2018 at 4:58 pm // Reply

    Man … in Italy we are complaining for a “slow” but free health care …

  13. Lyndel Turner // 20th July 2018 at 5:17 pm // Reply

    The sad thing is he could have gotten better advice from an addict

    • Lyndel Turner true and sad

    • Alex Anastasi // 20th July 2018 at 8:56 pm // Reply

      I’d argue that the truly sad thing is that we think of medical practitioners as more expert than those who’ve experienced something first hand. I was addicted to opiates 15 years, both prescribed and illicit sources. I now work in AOD (Alcohol & Other Drugs) as a professional harm minimisation worker after many years free of addicition.

    • he should have tried kratom, it saved my life

  14. Siddharth Kulkarni // 20th July 2018 at 5:27 pm // Reply

    Capitalism is mostly good, where it’s not it’s horrendous. Opioids crisis is one such example.

  15. and now…do the same thing homeless

  16. Not to minimize his suffering & triumph but If weening from only a few months of just pills is worthy of a TED Talk then stopping “cold turkey” after several decades of heroin(& IV mind you) should be worthy of a Movie or a Documentary at least.

    • realcygnus absolutely. I think there are a few movies and documentaries out there about just that. I remember one movie where the main couple in it were shaking tons of baby powder onto a mattress to help soak up the sweat… ugh god it’s horrible. I’ve never gone full cold turkey, but I’ve had a little taste of opioid withdrawals just for a day or so, and I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy!

    • Doctor Cthulhu // 20th July 2018 at 11:32 pm // Reply

      You will find this is about the most amount of time most people will engage on the subject. An hour and a half, of watching someone, truly, suffering is not going to get more than a few viewers. If you are talking about documenting the actual process someone is going through.
      And, if you are only talking about the after-withdrawal time period, and recounting the experience. It has been done in countless news documentaries, and daytime lifestyle shows.
      It’s a good feel-good story people like hearing, but it does give a false impression to a lot of Republican-types, that’s it’s an easy process, and others are just to lazy/weak for not doing it.

  17. OnePissedTiger // 20th July 2018 at 5:58 pm // Reply

    I was on percecet and morphine for 8 years and they took me off due to this crisis…I quit cold turkey and was lucky not to go through any sickness…70 days now

    • Physically impossible. Are you on methadone or suboxone?

    • Some people dont get withdrawal symptoms the first few times they stop cold turkey. Its completely normal. However they definitely will start experiencing withdrawal at some point if they continue taking opioids.

    • Logic Makes Sense // 20th July 2018 at 9:12 pm // Reply

      It’s not possible. I smell the strong odor of bullshit.

    • Barb DeSouza // 20th July 2018 at 9:15 pm // Reply

      Hmmm. When I took them for car accident or surgery on the short term, I was fine as well when I stopped. I was eventually put on them for long-term fibro pain and after five years of daily use the withdrawal was horrific.

    • Brenda Burkley // 20th July 2018 at 10:04 pm // Reply

      OnePissedTiger I don’t seem to ever have withdraws when takin off pain medications either. But I follow the directions on the bottle. I suffer from spinal injuries. So I think some of the withdrawals have to be from not using as directed ( taking more then prescribed) or psychological dependency.

  18. Saucy livin // 20th July 2018 at 6:01 pm // Reply

    I would never recommend anyone to take opioids unless the pain is unbareable. They took control of my life and need it just to feel normal

  19. Doctor Cthulhu // 20th July 2018 at 6:01 pm // Reply

    In areas of Canada regular doctors can no longer prescribe opioids for longer than 2 weeks total. You have to see a pain management specialist, who’s clinic doubles as a withdrawal specialist centre.

    I have reoccurring pain episodes, due to brain trauma, and have been through the withdrawal process 4 times in my life. It sounds a million ones easier than why he went through.

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