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Hello.  I am 23 and have been taking opiates for several years.  I've tried to quit before but always relapsed.  A month ago I started to develop what I believe to be called Onset Central Apnea.  That is where there is no physical sleeping problem like snoring but rather my brain just decides to give up on breathing all together.  It terrified me and my girlfriend and my Doctor mentioned that the opiate habit is probably causing it.  I quit cold turkey and the withdrawal symptoms are getting better.  I haven't even had a craving for a fix this past month because the horrible sleeping problems are WAY worse than the withdrawal.  After the first few days the OCA went away as my DR. predicted.  But now that I know what it feels like every time my heart or breathing varies I think I'm about to die. I'm not experiencing actual problems with my heart or I would go back to DR. but I'm more aware of the beating now because I'm paying attention.  Every now and again I will be sitting or laying or walking around and start feeling my heart beat.  I take my BP and it's fine as is my pulse.  Someone told me this was not so much part of the OCA but part of the withdrawal.  Is this true?  I've never been this deep into withdrawal before so I don't know what to anticipate and can't tell if its medical or just part of the process.  I've been going to weekly N.A. meetings for support from those who've been there but there are too many different withdrawal symptoms to be of much help.  Everyone is different.  Am I just being paranoid?  Is that part of the process?  If you could put my mind at ease that would help a lot.

One of the good things to come out of this is when I told my story to the people at N.A. a few other users came back and said that they were undecided about sticking with it but after my description of the central apnea they were pretty sure they wanted to stop while they are ahead.  In the past I would have said "shoot up and be merry" but now, I wouldn't wish that stuff on my worst enemy.

Thanks, Conrad

Answer
Congratulations Conrad,
It sounds like you are on the right track to recovery. Staying abstinent from all substances is the best thing you can do now for your health.
Your central apnea was likely a symptom of your opiate use. Apnea is what causes people to die from opiate use. It sounds as if what you are experiencing now is anxiety. Anxiety because you have become hyper sensitive to the symptoms as well as anxiety as a symptom of post acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS). PAWS can last for several months into recovery. The good news is, no one dies from anxiety, even though it feels scary.
A few tips I can give you are, daily exercise and continue your meeting attendance. Also, when the symptoms are happening, cover your nose and mouth with a paper lunch bag and breath in and out of it. This helps your breathing return to normal and your heart will stop pounding.
Of course, you will want to follow up with your doctor for a physical and if your symptoms worsen or persist.
Hang in there Conrad!
Sherrie

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Sherrie Sweet

Expertise

I am qualified to answer questions in all areas of addiction and recovery. If you have a question that I can not answer, I am not afraid to tell you that I do not know, however, I am willing to help you find the answer. I am qualified to assist you with questions asked by the individual who is using drugs or alcohol, as well as questions from concerned friends and family members. I understand the stigmas of this disease and the difficult issues that arise from substance use. I am here to offer guidance and support.

Experience

I have worked in the field of substance abuse for 20 years. I have experience working in the areas of inpatient detoxification, outpatient counseling, halfway houses, self help groups, individual, marital and family counseling, drunken driving education, pregnant and parenting programs, and medication assisted treatment. Additionally, I have a strong background in medical issues, psychopharmacology and mental health issues. I believe in individualized treatment which meets the specific needs of each person suffering from the disease of addiction.

Education/Credentials
I currently hold a Masters Degree in Human Services/Psychology. I am also continuing with a PhD in Counseling Psychology. I am internationally certified as an Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselor, and licensed as an Alcohol and Drug Counselor. I am additionally pursuing the credential of a Substance Abuse Professional which will allow me to work with and evaluate individuals who are employed within the D.O.T. system. Lastly, I am a partner in private practice working with individuals who are seeking recovery from addictive disorders.

Past/Present Clients
I have extensive experience working with individuals from all walks of life. I have worked with professionals, community leaders, NFL players, police officers, lawyers, nurses, homeless individuals, the indigent, doctors, and attorneys.

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