Q: What are opioids?

A: Opioids are a class of drug derived from the opium poppy.

Q: What are opioids used for?

A: Opioids are used in order to treat pain, usually moderate to

severe pain. They are stronger than over the counter remedies

such as aspirin and acetaminophen (Tylenol).

Q: What is opioid addiction?

A: Opioid addiction is a physical and mental addiction to opioid

pain relievers.

Q: Why are opioids so addictive?

A: Opium is highly addictive.

 Potent drugs derived from opium include heroin and morphine.

Opioids have a number of effects

that can make them addictive:

• They affect the way the brain perceives pain

• They release chemicals in the brain such as dopamine,

which gives a pleasurable sensation

• The pleasurable sensation triggers a “reward” response,

so the brain and body start to crave additional rewards

• They alter the synapses in the brain, which are

responsible for signaling from one brain and nerve cell to

the next. This can lead to the brain getting “re-wired” and

starting to crave the drug

Q: How quickly can someone become addicted to opioids?

A: Studies have shown that the remodeling of the brain can

cause a person to become addicted in as little as 3 days.

Q: What is opioid withdrawal?

A: Opioid withdrawal is the process by which a person tries to

free themselves from their addiction to opioids.

Q: What are the risks of addiction to opioids?

A: The risks of addiction to opioids are similar to addiction to

any other type of drug. There is risk of overdose, and

dangerous interactions with alcohol, and other medications,

which can lead to death.

Drug addiction can cause significant problems in an addict’s

personal and professional lives, including:

• Money problems

• Health problems

• Disability

• Career or school problems, mainly due to failing to meet

their responsibilities

• Relationship issues

• Behavioral changes and problems

• Legal problems if they are taking illicit drugs and/or

resorting to criminal activities in order to feed their

addiction with a steady supply of opioids

Q: Are some people more at risk than others?

A: Everyone responds to medications differently, so what might

be a mild dose or opioids for one person could lead to addiction

in another.

Q: Are certain groups of people more at risk of addiction than others?

A: Yes. A higher risk has been noted in these groups:

• Teens

• Women

• Seniors

• Athletes

• “Weekend warriors”

The main reasons these groups are susceptible can be due to

injury. With teens, they will also often abuse cough medicine,

which often contains opioids in order to suppress the center of

the brain that triggers coughing.

With women and seniors, they tends to have long-term chronic

pain as a result of illness and aging, such as through migraine,

back pain, and all forms of arthritis. The longer a person is on

the drug, the greater the risk of dependency, and eventually


Q: What is the difference between opioid dependency and opioids addiction?

A: The difference between drug dependence and drug addiction

is that in the case of dependence, such as in those who suffer

chronic pain, the body will develop physical dependence on the

drug. It will become accustomed to the medication and need it

to function without pain. It might develop a tolerance to the

medication, however, and need more and more, potentially

leading to addiction.

The term addiction is used when the medication appears to be

interfering with the individual's normal daily life in some way.

The person’s use of the drug is compulsive and out of control.

They will continue to use it in spite of obvious dangers, such as

not being able to function, accidents, non-fatal overdoses, and

so on.

Q: How does a person know if they (or a loved one) are addicted?

A: There are a number of common signs and symptoms. They


• Trouble with their speech

• Difficulty with physical coordination

• Constricted pupils the size of pinprick

• Changes in physical appearance

• Poor personal hygiene and a lack of proper self-care

• unusual smells on breath, body, or clothing

• changes in appetite

• sudden weight loss or weight gain

• changes in sleep patterns, such as insomnia

• sudden changes in mood

• irritability

• a loss of disinterest in activities they used to love

• a lack of motivation at work or school

• withdrawal from relationships

• more conflict within relationships

• money problems

• secretive behavior

• a lack of full grasp of reality-becoming paranoid or

imagining things

Q: Are there effective treatments for opioid addiction?

A: Yes, there are several. A combined approach usually has the

best chance of success.

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Q: How will the treatment program be determined?

A: Treatment will vary for each person depending on the type

of drug/s being used, the dosage, how long they have been

taking them, and what their personal situation is due to their

addiction. Some will be treated at an in-patient recovery and

rehabilitation center. Others will be treated on an out-patient

basis. At Opi Help we conduct an inpatient appointment and

assess the situation to find the best solution going forward.

Q: Can a person decide to just stop taking opioids?

A: Just stopping, commonly referred to as “going cold turkey,”

is possible, but can be very unpleasant, and as a result, often

unsuccessful. This is due to physical withdrawal from the


Q: What are the typical symptoms of opioid withdrawal?

A: Withdrawal from opioids will usually manifest with severe

flu-like symptoms which can last for several days to weeks.

Q: What are other common withdrawal symptoms to look for?

A: There are several other reported symptoms, particularly if a

person tried to go cold turkey. They include:

• Muscle aches

• Bone pain

• Chills

• Cold sweats and shivering

• Nausea and vomiting

• Diarrhea

• Restlessness, often in the legs

• Difficulty sleeping

• Insomnia

Q: What is detoxification, or "detox"?

A: Detoxification is the process of allowing the body to rid itself

of toxins, including drugs a person is addicted to. In the

process of detox for opioids, the withdrawal from the drug will

be part of the process, but is often only the first step in the

path to freedom from addiction.

Q: How long with withdrawal symptoms usually last?

A: It depends on the individual and length and severity of their

addiction. Three months to a year is typical.