To understand why opioids cause withdrawals, it is essential to uncover how they are addictive. By increasing your awareness of opioid abuse, you will have the ability to recognize the signs of dependency and addiction. This can assist you in seeking treatment and support.
Opioids such as morphine, fentanyl, and codeine are typically prescribed to treat severe pain. These medications work by interacting with the opioid receptors to block pain messages. Though opioids are an effective form of treatment, they are frequently misused due to the side effects they come hand-in-hand with, such as sensations of euphoria alongside pain relief. Unfortunately, opioid misuse is often the cause of dependency and substance abuse.
Whether prescribed by a doctor or purchased illegally, opioids are addictive. It might be surprising to know that between eight and twelve percent of people using an opioid for chronic pain develop an opioid use disorder. However, this does not mean that everyone will become addicted to opioids.
Some people are at greater risk of developing an addiction to opioids than others, with studies finding high rates of comorbid substance abuse disorders among those with mental health disorders.
Before understanding why opioids cause withdrawals, it is important to recognize the signs of substance abuse disorder (SUD). Although the signs significantly differ from person to person, some of the common signs of opioid addiction include:
- Continued use of opioids despite adverse effects on health
- Continued use of opioids despite legal or social ramifications
- Increased tolerance
Be aware that increased tolerance is not always a sign of addiction. Over time our opiate receptors adapt, and we build a tolerance. The body also stops producing the natural opioids required to regulate itself. Regardless of how addiction develops, withdrawal symptoms will be encountered when opioids are abstained from.
When an individual develops an opioid dependency, abruptly abstaining from them takes its toll on the body and brain. Left to function without substances, it takes time for the body to adjust and restore itself to homeostasis. This is because both addiction and withdrawal cause an imbalance in the body’s chemistry and natural state of equilibrium.
Symptoms of withdrawal include:
- Abdominal cramps
- Elevated heart rate
Withdrawing from opioid addiction without medical help is extremely dangerous. However, taking advantage of a professional detox program makes the process much easier.
An effective form of treatment for opioid addiction is detoxification. You can detox either at home with medication and support, in a detox facility, or hospital if required.
When administered, medications such as methadone and buprenorphine relieve the symptoms of withdrawal and reduce cravings. Typically, people are stabilized on a dose of one of these medications, which are then gradually weaned down. This allows the body to adjust in a controlled way. It also reduces the risk of relapse.
Essentially initiating the recovery process, a medical detox removes all traces of opioids from a person’s body safely and in a controlled way. Once a person recovers from their physical addiction, they will need to work on their psychological addiction.
Recovery is a lifelong journey. There are mutual support groups in the United States, such as Narcotics Anonymous and SMART Recovery, where people in recovery can come together and support one another.
Substance abuse withdrawals can seem challenging to complete. Yet, by understanding why opioids cause withdrawals, you will have the support you need to focus on the end goal – recovery.
A medical detox can help you manage the most severe symptoms of opioid detox while supporting you emotionally. If you’ve previously tried to recover from an opioid addiction, and have relapsed due to the severity of withdrawal symptoms, consider reaching out for professional help. With appropriate detoxification treatment and a support system, recovery is always possible. Contact us for help and more information.