What are Opioid Withdrawal Symptoms?

There are many unpleasant side effects associated with withdrawal from opiates and opioids. As it is rarely possible to quit without medical assistance, those who just try to quit have a high relapse rate. These drugs act on opioid receptors in the brain to make a person feel euphoric. They’re addictive, and prolonged use can cause serious psychological issues, like mood disorders, and health conditions, like nausea. In recent years, usage has been on the rise, especially among those with substance abuse histories. This has led to an epidemic level of addiction and an alarming rise in overdose deaths.

When people start taking opioids, which belong to a class of medications prescribed for pain relief, whether for legitimate reasons or for recreation, they get addicted. Recognizing the risks, they might try to quit, but it’s difficult because withdrawal from drugs like opiates and opioids is both acutely uncomfortable and dangerous. Opiates like opium, heroin, morphine, and codeine are made from the opium poppy, a species of poppy native to Europe. Synthetic opioids like hydrocodone, oxycodone, and methadone have the same effect as natural opiates. Opiates and synthetic opioids suppress pain by activating opioid receptors in the brain and spinal cord. The most common side effects of these drugs are drowsiness, nausea, constipation, dry mouth, and dizziness.

The Widespread Use and Abuse of Opioids

Opioid use disorder is characterized by an addiction to opioids and other substances. Opioids reduce or eliminate pain and discomfort. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that more than 2 million Americans are addicted to opioids, sometimes to prescription drugs like methadone, or to illegal drugs like heroin. The Human Resources & Service Administration estimates that over 130 people a day die from overdose.

The use of medications such as codeine, fentanyl, or hydrocodone, which are highly effective treatments for chronic pain, can become problematic when taken for extended periods of time. The problems include physical dependency, addiction, and withdrawal symptoms. Talk to your doctor if you’re thinking about stopping or reducing your opioid intake because you’ll start experiencing extremely debilitating withdrawal symptoms. Since it can be difficult to cope with opioid withdrawal, medical intervention will be necessary to manage withdrawal symptoms.

How Opioids Affect the Human Body

Opioids relieve pain by acting on the central nervous system. These drugs are commonly prescribed for chronic or acute pain after surgery since they either produce euphoria or drowsiness. However, prolonged use increases the risk of side effects and overdose. Opioids can affect the way a person feels, behaves, and thinks. They can also cause chronic constipation as well as decrease cognitive function. Additionally, they can even cause death due to respiratory hypoventilation, also known as respiratory depression, a condition caused by slow, inadequate breathing.

The body produces endorphins once opioids bind to opioid receptors in the brain, spinal cord, and gastrointestinal system. Since this endorphin rush creates an extremely pleasurable sensation, people take opioids too often, which is the primary reason they become addicted to it.

Why Opioid Withdrawal is Difficult

Due to the increasing use of opioids, opioid withdrawal is becoming more common. The symptoms are like those of a cold or flu, but if not treated properly, can be dangerous. When someone who has been taking opioids suddenly stops ingesting them, they experience opioid withdrawal symptoms that usually last for about two weeks.

These withdrawal symptoms can include:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Headaches
  • Muscle aches and cramps
  • Nausea and vomiting

A Drastic Shift in Opioid Use in Recent Decades

The overdose rate for all opioid types has risen, not only for natural opiates used recreationally but also for prescription opioids taken for acute pain management. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, opioid use has dramatically increased over the past few decades. The shift in opioid use has been attributed to a growing number of people using it to relieve their pain instead of less effective prescription painkillers.

There are two reasons why opioid addiction is at an all-time high. First, doctors have been writing more opioid prescriptions for their patients. Investigative journalists have reported that doctors are prescribing these drugs for chronic conditions like back pain, arthritis, and migraines. In the past, opioids were only prescribed for acute pain after surgery or because of an accident. The second reason is that people are now developing tolerance to opioids, which means they need stronger prescription painkillers to get the same relief they once did.

A counselor is available to help you 24 hours a day if you are addicted to opioids or opiates. Please call 833-846-5669.