Recognizing the Signs of Opiate Withdrawal

“Comfort is beauty muted by heroin. Sadness is beauty drained by lack of it, ” and, “When you can stop you don’t want to, and when you want to stop, you can’t…” are quotes from Luke Davies’ book, Candy: A Novel of Love and Addiction.

The story chronicles Davies’ own heroin addiction, taking the reader through the tumultuous daily life of the narrator (seemingly Luke) and Candy, identified as his then wife, Megan Bannister, a painter from Melbourne.

Candy is drawn to the narrator’s laidback lifestyle and heroin addiction. The couple falls in love with each other and with their drug use together. Candy overdoses and almost dies, but wants to continue using. She sells her body for drug money in a number of ways, and the addiction continues.

The couple tries to stop using several times, but is unsuccessful. The withdrawal is too intense, and the desire to be high together trumps any length of sobriety. Candy finds herself pregnant at one point and the two believe this is the reason to stop using heroin. Sadly, abstinence does not last long; Candy goes into labor way too early and she delivers a son who lives for only a few minutes. The couple continues using, now with even more reason to numb the pain.

In real life, when an opiate addict tries to stop using, withdrawal is intense. If you think someone you know is using an opiate, you can use the signs of opiate withdrawal to identify a potential addiction, and to offer that person help.

Look for:

  • Vomiting
  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Muscle aches
  • Increased tearing
  • Insomnia
  • Runny nose
  • Sweating
  • Yawning
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Diarrhea
  • Dilated pupils
  • Goosebumps
  • Nausea

Medically-monitored detoxification can help avoid the completely painful symptoms as you get clean. A trained medical professional can offer helpful medications so you do not have to experience excruciating pain while ridding your body of such harmful chemicals.

In the book, Candy and the narrator also attempt sobriety with the assistance of methadone, a weaker form of narcotic painkiller. When administered in proper doses, the drug can help those who use heroin and other more harmful opiates from going back to heavy use. Methadone keeps the user at a good level of opiate use without a high and without experiencing the symptoms of withdrawal.

Spoiler alert: at the end of Candy, the narrator goes to rehab and gets clean. He and Candy decide to permanently part ways so that each has a chance at a life in recovery.

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