Opioid Withdrawal | Causes, Symptoms, & Treatment

Manish Mishra, MBBS

Medically Reviewed By: Manish Mishra, MBBS

on December 11, 2022

Opioid withdrawal can be a result of opioid dependence, where the body requires opioid drugs to function properly. 

A dependent body may enter withdrawal after the discontinuation of opioids, where a person experiences side effects such as cravings, insomnia, nausea, high blood pressure, and other effects.

Opioids that can cause dependence and withdrawal include many common prescription opioid analgesics, such as oxycodone, codeine, hydrocodone, fentanyl, and morphine.

Opioid withdrawal can be life-threatening in severe cases. Patients may relapse back into a pattern of opioid abuse to avoid severe withdrawal symptoms, which can result in an opioid overdose

Opioid withdrawal can be indicative of a chronic opioid use disorder, a serious mental disorder that may require professional drug addiction treatment.

Causes Of Opioid Withdrawal

Opioid withdrawal can result from heavy use of opioids, especially over a long period of time. 

Opioids work by binding to opioid receptors in the central nervous system, resulting in pain relief and sedation. Over time, the body may rely on opioids to produce this sensation, and enter withdrawal when it is deprived.

Opioid withdrawal syndrome can also result when a patient has recently taken opioids and ingests an opioid antagonist such as buprenorphine or methadone. Patients with opioids in their system may wish to inform their doctor to avoid this drug interaction.

Abusing opioids can increase your chances of dependency, opioid addiction, and withdrawal. Taking opioids for a short-term amount of time as recommended by your healthcare provider can reduce your risk of physical dependence and withdrawal.

Symptoms Of Opioid Withdrawal

Opioid withdrawal symptoms can range from mild to severe, and may include:

  • opioid cravings
  • sedation
  • nausea
  • cold flashes
  • sleeping problems
  • excessive sweating
  • increased heart rate
  • increased blood pressure

The severity of withdrawal may be assessed through the Clinical Opiate Withdrawal Scale or COWS. Patients may report the intensity of common withdrawal symptoms they are experiencing, and a doctor may suggest different treatment options depending on the results.

Treatment Options For Opioid Withdrawal

The management of opioid withdrawal may include the use of medication and behavioral services in an inpatient or outpatient detoxification program. This clinician-supervised intervention helps patients stay safe and detox in a medical environment while they undergo withdrawal.

If opioid withdrawal is indicative of a chronic substance use disorder, patients may be referred to a substance abuse treatment program.

Medication-Assisted Treatment

Opioid antagonists and partial agonists such as methadone and buprenorphine can be effective in managing withdrawal symptoms. Naltrexone can block the habit-forming effects of opioids.

These FDA-approved medications can bind to the same receptors as opioid drugs while possessing a lower potential for abuse. 

Medication may be given alongside treatment options such as mental health counseling, referrals to support groups, and behavioral therapy. To learn about our inpatient opioid treatment program, please contact Ohio Recovery Center today.

  1. National Institute on Drug Abuse — Prescription Opioids DrugFacts | National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) https://nida.nih.gov/publications/drugfacts/prescription-opioids
  2. National Library of Medicine: StatPearls — Opioid Withdrawal https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK526012/
  3. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) — Buprenorphine https://www.samhsa.gov/medication-assisted-treatment/medications-counseling-related-conditions/buprenorphine

Written by Ohio Recovery Center Editorial Team

© 2024 Ohio Recovery Center | All Rights Reserved

* This page does not provide medical advice.

Prefer Texting?
We've got you covered.

Receive 24/7 text support right away.
There is no obligation and you can opt out at any time.

Sign up for text support

Receive 24/7 text support right away.
There is no obligation and you can opt out at any time.
Let us walk you through the treatment process. We're here to help.
For 24/7 Treatment Help:
100% Free & Confidential. Call (419) 904-4158