Why Opiate Withdrawal is Unbearable, and the Myth That You Can’t Die From It.
Warning!! Contains graphic content and images!
I just want to put this out there that both times I quit cold turkey and when I was also at an accelerated detox I ended up in the hospital. If I didn’t make it to the hospital I would have died. People push the whole you can’t die from opiate withdrawal but you CAN.
This is a small window into my account of just the physical aspect of opiate withdrawal.
It starts with intense body aches, yawning, goosebumps, sneezing, snot pouring from the nose. Then the giant crap you been holding in because you are scared to have to dig it out manually finally comes full force and rips your ass. While you are in the toilet in pain you are sweating your ass off and then you grab the towel off the towel rack (if you are at home and not jail) because the sweat now has caused you to start freezing. So you get up off the toilet and try to sit normally in the corner somewhere. Jail, home, wherever. Shaking, eyes go blurry. Your pupils are huge at this point so the light hurts.
Now me personally, this is where it goes deadly. The body aches are so bad you just thrash and thrash, you can’t stop moving because the pain is like someone twisting all your muscles and slashing inside your bones. Don’t even think about sleep, besides maybe passing out for 15 minutes, because the thrashing for days on end wears you out. You feel like a puppet and a puppeteer is just shaking you around, while strings are tied to your arms and legs.
Now you are so weak and worn out that you have to crawl to the toilet and puke gallons of green slime. While switching to sitting and pooing a gallon of green slime. Drinking water? Nope. That only induces the puking gallons of green slime again. You fill the toilet to the brim with green. You don’t get where it’s all coming from. How can this much fluid come out of the body? Your lips start to bleed and crack from the vomit and dehydration. You drag yourself back to the bed to lie down. Your body vibrating, your hands and feet cold.
It’s now been 3 days with no sleep, no food, and no water. You feel like you are dying. You have hallucinations from the lack of sleep. Seeing spiders on the walls, webs all around you. You can’t stop puking green slime every hour. You start to feel like your whole body is pins and needles. You are soaked in sweat, your hands and feet ice cold. Your skin takes on a pink/reddish color. It feels as though your arms and legs are falling asleep, you keep getting intense charlie horses. Every time you move it’s horrible pain of pins all over the body. You try to get out of the bed to puke and Poo again and end up hitting your head because your blood pressure is floored. Your potassium has bottomed out.
You get back in the bed, you can barely move. Head pounding. Your arms start to lock up towards your chest and it becomes harder and harder to move them. Your skin is stuck to your bones with nothing in between. The pain is excruciating. Finally, you feel you drifted off to sleep. You hear someone calling your name and light going across your eyes. You are shaking, sweating, and your body has completely locked up. You have to puke again but can’t make it. You can’t respond to them calling your name. You are in an ambulance but your body and dehydration make it so they can’t get a vein. You finally get to the hospital and people are running all around you, attaching this and that. Asking you the best place to get a vein knowing you are a junkie. They try to bend your arms but they are completely locked. You drift in and out.
The fentanyl hits you, you feel a bit better, the IV hits you and your arms slowly start to unlock your toes stop pointing straight out. The horrific pain turns into an ache instead of going through your whole body.
You had complete renal failure (kidney failure). Are told you may need dialysis. You stay in the hospital because even with bag after bag you haven’t peed. They can’t release you till you do. Your first pee after a few days in the hospital, catheter in, is brown. They are very concerned. 4 days in the hospital….before I am released back to the jail. This was my first experience with cold turkey.
I never have had any prior health problems as well. They say you can die from opiate withdrawal only if you have an underlying health problem. That is so far from true. Here are just a few cases, just a few that hit the news, that have died from opiate withdrawal. And the reason that these people die was because of this myth. Most of the people that I have found had no underlying medical conditions. These were all young healthy people. It is also more common in women for some reason, it is a lot harder on our bodies.
People Who Have Died in the News (the ones that even hit the news):
Stephanie Moyer: She was arrested for the first time ever when she was 18 years old in Philadelphia, PA, on March 27, 2015. She told the staff in the jail that she was using 10 bags of heroin a day. She continued to vomit and have severe diarrhea for the next 4 days, until extremely dehydrated. They ignored her pleas for help, and by the time she got to the hospital she had died. An earlier trip to the hospital to receive IV fluids was all that was needed to save her life.
Frederick Adami: A 52-year-old Pennsylvania man, was arrested, and was kept in a cell with a man who was begging for the guards to help Frederick. He was vomiting and having severe diarrhea for days. When the cellmate woke up the next morning the Fred was lifeless on the floor covered in feces and his own vomit. The staff ignored their pleas. “You can’t die from opiate withdrawal.” News story here.
Kelsie Green: A 24-year-old Anchorage woman was arrested for a minor warrant, driving on a revoked license. She entered the jail and 5 days later was wheeled out, arms locked, from kidney failure. The article states arms locked like she was reaching for something, but I know too well, that is what happens from severe dehydration and kidney failure. The woman died begging for help and was ignored.
Lameika Dockery: She was arrested in Indiana. She was in there for 6 days, she told the guards that she was unable to eat or drink and was constantly vomiting. She actually wasn’t in withdrawal but rather died of sepsis because she had a perforated ulcer in her intestines. Because she had failed a drug test on arrest they assumed it was withdrawal and ignored her pleas. “I’m going to die in here.” She told them.
Briana Beland: a 31-year-old mother from Charleston, South Carolina. On her second day in jail, she pleaded with jail staff to help her. “I’m dying, and they won’t do a damn thing to help me.” It was one of the last things she said before she was found lifeless two days later because staff had ignored her pleas.
Kelly Coltrain: Now this is one of the worst cases I have seen and reminds me of my own case except this sweet girl didn’t make it. This case hits so close to home, and I even reached out and gave the family my condolences. 27-year-old Kelly was in town in Reno, Nevada for a family reunion and was arrested for a traffic charge while in town, which she didn’t live anymore.
While she was in jail, she was vomiting non-stop green slime and forced to mop it up while she could barely stand. The staff ignored her pleas and then found her dead. The officer on duty knew she was unresponsive after having a seizure and then did not alert anyone for over 6 hours before calling to say she was dead.
They then left her in her cell all night and no one came to check her until the morning. I still choke up writing about this absolutely disgusting story showing the evil doing of monsters in our society.
Now outside of institutions and jails dying from opiate withdrawal is exceedingly rare, because proper medical care is all that is needed. Something so simple as some IV fluids and these stories could have been prevented. There are many more stories just like these where either someone died of withdrawal, or they were written off as just withdrawing when they had other issues.
If you have a story about yourself or about someone close to you please send them to me. I would like to post their memory and advocate for those that can no longer. Whether it was from overdosing, or complications related to drug use. <3