Opioid Overdose, Withdrawal, and Addiction

Opioids are a class of drugs made from the substances found in the opium poppy plant. This includes naturally extracted substances (a sub-category called “opiates”) and synthetic man-made substances. They have powerful pain relieving effects and are known for being highly addictive.

Examples of common opioids include:

  • Heroin
  • Morphine
  • Codeine
  • Fentanyl
  • Methadone
  • Hydrocodone
  • Oxycodone

Overdoses and the Opioid Crisis

For decades, the U.S. has been fighting an opioid addiction epidemic. While efforts have been made to raise awareness, expand treatment, and prevent overprescribing, the crisis has continued to grow. In fact, the number of opioid-related overdose deaths has grown by roughly eight times since 1999. As of 2020, nearly 75% of drug overdose deaths in the United States involved an opioid.¹

Over time, the body builds tolerance against opioids, requiring larger and larger doses to achieve the same effects. If the dose is too much for the body to process, it can easily be fatal. With quick intervention, overdose death can sometimes be prevented. Today, the opioid overdose medication Narcan can help to reverse the effects of opioids, increasing the chance of survival.

Prescription Painkiller Abuse

Opioids aren’t just illegal street drugs. Opioid pain medications are regularly prescribed and taken with legitimate treatment intentions. They’re an extremely effective short-term tool when used in the right way, but misuse can leave a patient physically dependent.

People who become addicted to opioids as a result of treatment aren’t necessarily being reckless. When you just want the pain to go away, it can seem like a harmless one-time solution to take extra medication or get a few more pills. Unfortunately, one time can quickly turn into more. Even when the drug is no longer needed to help the pain, many people find themselves continuing to use the medication. What was once a very necessary response to pain becomes a physical and psychological craving to have the drug. This transition from proper use to abuse happens silently, without intention and for many It can be hard to admit to a full-fledged addiction.

Prescription opioids are heavily regulated and tracked to help prevent abuse, but we still haven’t found the right balance between their benefits and risks. That’s why it’s important to understand the risks, watch for red flags, and know when it’s time to search for “drug addiction centers near me.”

Symptoms of Opioid Addiction

Whether it’s a loved one or yourself, watch for addiction red flags like these:

  • Deteriorating appearance or hygiene
  • Restless, irritable behavior
  • Seeming frequently intoxicated or tired (slurred words, sleepy movements, glazed eyes)
  • Long-term use of opioid medications, well past the original prescribed period
  • Difficulty keeping and finding jobs
  • Unexplained financial difficulties
  • Seeing multiple doctors regularly for various issues (may be “doctor shopping”)
  • Neglecting prior commitments and responsibilities
  • Extreme defensiveness when questioned
  • Other sudden changes that can’t be otherwise explained

Opioid Withdrawals Can Be Deadly

When a person is intensely addicted to a substance, their body is physically dependent on it. When that substance is removed, the body struggles to function. This period of struggle is known as “withdrawal,” and the symptoms can be hard to bear.

Early withdrawal symptoms may include:

  • Intense cravings
  • Restlessness
  • Anger, irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Aching muscles
  • Heavy sweating
  • Sleep problems

Withdrawal worsens over time, leading to later symptoms like:

  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea, vomiting
  • Rapid heart rate
  • High blood pressure
  • Large (dilated) pupils

The severity of symptoms depends greatly on the person and the nature of their addiction. In general, the heavier the opioid use, the more severe the symptoms are likely to be.

Safe Opioid Detox Is a Gradual Process

In addition to feeling extremely sick and having powerful cravings for the drug, the physical impact of withdrawal can be life threatening. The safest way to break an addiction to opioids is to slowly taper off of them under medical guidance and supervision. This gives the body time to adjust to each new dose, makes withdrawal symptoms easier to manage, and reduces the risk of early relapse.

The Importance of Getting the Right Help

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Overcoming an opioid addiction is more than just breaking a dependency. Long-term success in recovery takes personal discovery and meaningful change. Just like medical detox keeps patients safe, the right treatment program keeps them on track and improves the likelihood of lasting success.

With how addictive and relatively accessible opioid drugs are, the chance of permanently quitting on your own is low. Even if you’re able to stop using opioids and improve your external circumstances, there’s still a risk of relapse without internal work. When you understand your addiction, address underlying issues, and learn new coping strategies in treatment, you’ll be able to respond to old triggers in a new way.

Where Can I Find Drug Addiction and Alcoholism Treatment Centers Near Me?

At Divine House in San Diego, we offer effective, evidence-based care in a relaxed, comforting environment. With residential treatment, intensive outpatient programs, and secure sober living facilities, we give patients the education and tools they need to succeed in their journey toward lifelong sobriety.

Unlike other drug and alcohol treatment facilities, Divine House is founded and run by board-certified doctors. All of our detox and medical care are provided in-house, allowing patients to stay with the same healthcare team throughout treatment. Doctors are also on call for emergency care 24/7.

If you’re struggling with an addiction to opioid drugs, you deserve to have experienced professional help. To find out how the programs at Divine House can help you reclaim your life, call us at (619) 304-6467 or visit Divine House today.


  1. https://www.cdc.gov/opioids/data/index.html