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Opioid Abuse Dependence & Withdrawal

Updated 24 October 2022 Written by Deborah QuinnMedically Reviewed by Sahar Wahed, RN
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What is Opioid Dependence & Withdrawal?

Opioids are a class of drugs that relieve pain and, in higher doses, give users a euphoric high. Although they’re very commonly prescribed after surgery or for people with chronic pain, opioids are highly addictive.

Tens of thousands of Americans fatally overdose on opioids each year. Illegal opioids include heroin and opium; prescription opioids include oxycodone, fentanyl, morphine, codeine and hydrocodone.

Opioid Tolerance, Dependence and Addiction

When you take an opioid, the drug goes into your bloodstream and eventually to your brain, where it produces a rush of endorphins: chemicals that temporarily cause you to feel pleasure, happiness and calm.

But when you use opioids repeatedly, your brain loses its ability to naturally produce its feel-good chemicals – this can begin to happen in just a short period of time. Eventually, users feel like the only time they can function normally or feel okay  is when they’re on opioids.

As you use repeatedly, your body goes through several stages of adaptation to the presence of opioids:

  • Tolerance is formed when you begin needing more of the substance to feel its effects. This is because your brain is getting used to it, so it adjusts by producing less dopamine and fewer endorphins of its own.
  • Dependence is formed when your body must have the drug, or else you’ll experience the symptoms of withdrawal.
  • Addiction is formed when you intensely crave the drug and can’t stop using it despite its negative consequences.

Withdrawal from Opioids

With repeated opioid use, your brain becomes so adapted to the substance that it’s very difficult to quit. You feel certain symptoms when you haven’t had taken opioids in a while, such as:

  • Body aches
  • Anxiety
  • Irritation
  • Watery eyes
  • Sweating
  • Insomnia
  • Fatigue
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Increased heart rate
  • Dehydration
  • Seizures

In rare cases, people have died as a result of more severe withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms may last for shorter or longer periods of time, based on the length and intensity of drug use.

Because of the serious dangers involved in opioid withdrawal, it’s recommended that you seek professional treatment when quitting opioids – detox should be carried out under medical supervision, followed by addiction treatment to prevent future use.

Opioid Detox and Addiction Treatment

At Sandstone Care, we’ve helped countless young people get clean from opioids – we understand what you’re going through, and we’re here to offer you all the support you need to get through it.

We have a medical detox center that can help you safely detox from opioids. Call us anytime at (888) 850-1890.

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We understand taking the first step is difficult. There is no shame or guilt in asking for help or more information. We are here to support you in any way we can.