Opioid Dependence

What Is Opioid Dependence? What Are Its Signs, Symptoms, And Treatment?

Opioid dependence is a long-lasting disorder that can result in significant social, health, and economic problems. Opioids are a category of drugs that function in the nervous system to elicit feelings of pain relief and pleasure. Some opioids are prescribed legally by doctors to manage chronic and severe pain. The commonly prescribed opioids are fentanyl, oxycodone, methadone, codeine, buprenorphine, oxymorphone, hydrocodone, and morphine. Some other opioids, like heroin, are illicit drugs of abuse. Overuse of these opioids can lead to opioid dependence.

What Is Opioid Dependence?

So what is opioid dependence? It is depicted by a robust and compulsive urge to take opioid drugs, even when they are not required medically. They have a high potential for addiction in some people, even when the drugs are appropriately prescribed and taken as directed. Others misuse numerous prescription opioids. People who become addicted may prioritize using these drugs over other activities, frequently negatively impacting their personal and professional relationships. It is unknown why some individuals are more likely to become addicted than others.

Opioids alter the brain’s chemistry and can lead to drug tolerance, which implies that over time the dose must be improved to attain the same effect. Using opioids over an extended period elicits dependence. When people stop using the drug, they have psychological and physical symptoms of withdrawal, like diarrhea, muscle cramping, and anxiety. Dependence is not the exact thing as addiction; However, everyone who uses opioids will become dependent; only a small ratio also encounters the compulsive, continuing necessity for the drug that depicts addiction.

Opioid dependence can result in life-threatening health difficulties, comprising the risk of overdose. It occurs when high doses of opioids result in slow breathing, directing to unconsciousness and death if it is not treated immediately. In addition, both illegal and legal opioids lead to a risk of overdose if a person uses too much of the drug or if opioids are incorporated with other drugs.

Signs And Symptoms Of Opioid Dependence

Symptoms and signs of opiate dependence and abuse will vary from person to person. These signs will depend upon the frequency of use, length of addiction, and level of dependence upon the drugs. However, common symptoms of opiate addiction are:

Mood symptoms:

  • Anxiety 
  • Depression
  • Relaxation
  • Irritability
  • Elation
  • Anger

Behavioral opioid dependence symptoms:

  • Hiding opiates in different places around the house, car, and office 
  • Lying about the number of narcotics used 
  • Lowered inhibitions
  • Borrowing or stealing drugs from friends and family
  • Visiting several doctors to obtain more drugs for opiates
  • Compulsive use and abuse of drugs despite negative consequences
  • Slurred speech
  • Poor judgment
  • Risk-taking behaviors

Physical opioid addiction symptoms:

  • Sleepiness
  • Constipation
  • Bloodshot eyes 
  • Decreased respiratory rate
  • Pupillary constriction
  • Difficulties urinating 
  • Flushed skin
  • Withdrawal symptoms of the drug are not available
  • Itching
  • Liver disease 
  • Coma
  • Jaundice
  • Death

Psychological symptoms:

  • Hallucinations 
  • Addiction 
  • Paranoia
  • Confusion
  • Psychological dependence
  • Delusions

What Are The Long-Term Effects of Opioid Abuse?

The long-term effects of opioid dependence will vary based on the length of time of opioid use, the type of opiate use, and the frequency. Common effects of opiate dependence include:

  • Anxiety 
  • Liver disease 
  • Addiction
  • Dehydration 
  • Pneumonia
  • Abscesses of the skin
  • Infection of cardiac valves
  • Cirrhosis
  • Increased respiratory infections
  • Seizures
  • Irritability
  • Suicidal thoughts and behaviors
  • Failed attempts to cut down on the drug use 
  • Cardiac dysrhythmias
  • Overdose
  • Stroke
  • Heart attack
  • Coma
  • Death

What is The Treatment For Opioid Dependence?

Opioids are highly addictive drugs used to manage moderate-to-severe pain in people suffering from burns, cancer, injuries, and other ailments. Most people who see the doctor for pain-related problems and are prescribed opioid addiction and dependence narcotics such as OxyContin, Vicodin, and hydrocodone take the drug exactly as directed. Then, when the drug is terminated, they do so without difficulties. Nonetheless, a growing number of people take these drugs in a non-medical manner. This is called prescription drug dependence, an increasing problem in the US.

People who start to abuse opioids do so to attain feelings of joy and calm well-being related to the drugs. These people will take larger and larger quantities of the drug to attain the exact effect as their bodies become dependent upon the opioid. They may try to reduce their use, knowing that addiction is a horrible disease, only to discover unpleasant opioid addiction withdrawal symptoms.

Types Of Treatment for Opioid Dependence 

When a person goes to a treatment program seeking treatment for opioid dependence, there are some things one needs to know. First, if it is determined that a person is physically dependent upon opioids, they will undergo detoxification as the initial step of rehab at an addiction treatment center. During the detoxification program, the person will be medically supervised twenty-four hours a day. Then they will safely and effectively detox from opioids as comfortably as possible. Once a person is medically stabilized, they will move on to the next step of addiction treatment at the rehab center.


Medication is used at the beginning of the program of opioid dependence treatment at rehab centers as a part of the detox procedure, or it may be specified to help organize some of the uncomfortable signs one may experience. However, some people need long-term medication to deal with co-occurring mental ailments.

Group Therapy

This therapy is the primary therapeutic technique for the treatment of opioid dependence. It is believed that the adequate way to overcome dependence is through supporting people struggling with exact issues. Opiate addiction treatment touches on various topics, including addiction anger management, coping mechanisms, co-occurring disorders, and relapse prevention.

Individual Therapy

This therapy allows the person to work through some of their more personal problems relating to opiate dependence in a more intimate setting. The person will be able to explore issues surrounding the addiction, focus on difficulties dependence has resulted in their life, and explore ways to deter relapse after leaving the opioid dependence treatment center for rehab for their opiate dependence.


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