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Abstract

Opiate withdrawal is one of the longest studied and most well described withdrawal syndromes. Opiate withdrawal has been described as akin to a moderate to severe flu-like illness. Opiate withdrawal is appropriately described as subjectively severe but objectively mild. This paper describes the mechanisms of opiate dependence and opiate withdrawal and reviews the available instruments for the measurement of withdrawal. The time course of assisted and unassisted withdrawal is described and the range of options for the management of assisted withdrawal are described. This review concludes that the most effective and least time- and resource-consuming approach to opiate withdrawal will substantially contribute to the overall social management of opiate dependence.