Opioid Dependence

Opioids are narcotic pain relievers that work by changing the way the brain receives pain. They are commonly prescribed by doctors to relieve mild to severe pain. Codeine, morphine, OxyContin, Darvon, Demerol, Vicodin and Diluadad are commonly known opioids. They work by attaching to specific proteins in the brain, spinal cord and gastrointestinal tract, and block the transmission of pain messages to the brain. Opioids also change the way our brain perceives pain. They can produce drowsiness and euphoria by affecting the brain regions that produce pleasure.

Signs of Opioid Withdrawal

Those who take opioids long term may experience withdrawal symptoms if they try to stop the drug. These symptoms include:

  • Restlessness
  • Muscle and bone pain
  • Insomnia
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Cold flashes
  • Involuntary leg movements

Causes of Opiod Dependence

Many people will not become dependent on opioids if they are taken exactly as prescribed. However, opioids are addictive drugs and it is possible to become addicted. Chronic use of opioids can result in tolerance for the drugs, which means that the user must take a higher dose to achieve the same initial effects. Those who take opioids long-term may become dependent as their body adapts to the presence of the drug and withdrawal symptoms will occur if they stop using opioids. Long-term use of opioids will harm the body and will interfere with your daily life. Long-term use also increases the risk of an overdose.

Help and Treatment

The American Association for the Treatment of Opioid Dependence is dedicated to treating patients with an opioid addiction. Their mission is to enhance the quality of patient care in treatment programs. They promote the growth and development of methadone treatment services throughout the U.S. The organization offers membership programs, conferences and training events to help those who may have an opioid dependence. Several options are available for effectively treating addiction to prescription opioids, which include medications such as methadone and behavioral counseling approaches. Detoxification is not a treatment for opioid addiction, but it will help for long-term treatment. Its primary goal is to relieve withdrawal symptoms while the patient adjusts to being drug free. Detox should precede long-term treatment and usually requires complete abstinence or use of medication such as methadone. Methadone is a treatment option for those who are dependent on opioids. Methadone is a synthetic opioid that blocks the effects opioids, eliminates withdrawal symptoms and relieves drug craving. It has been used successfully for more than 30 years to treat people addicted to opioids. There are other opioid blockers that have been successful in treating opioid addiction, which include naltrexone and LAAM.

View Resources

American Association for the Treatment of Opioid Dependence – Provides information on treating people with an opioid addiction

Drug Addiciton – Gives information on opioid addiction and dependence

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