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10 Physical and Psychological Symptoms of Opium Withdrawal

Opium and opium-derived drugs act as natural analgesic agents in the body. Opium-derived substances include heroin as well as a host of prescription pain-relief medications.

While effective at treating conditions involving pain, abusing opium type drugs leaves users open to any number of physical and psychological problems. According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, opium-related emergency room visits have more than quadrupled over the past decade with over 475,000 Americans admitted for emergency treatment care.

Symptoms of opium withdrawal develop as the brain and body grow dependent on the drug’s effects. The resulting widespread chemical imbalances caused by the drug account for the symptoms of opium withdrawal users experience. With continued use, symptoms of opium withdrawal grow progressively worse as brain and body structures continue to weaken over time.

Physical Symptoms of Opium Withdrawal

withdrawing from opiates

Opium withdrawal may involve aches and pains, fatigue, insomnia and other symptoms.


Opium acts as a central nervous system depressant that essentially slows down major processes throughout the body. Feelings of fatigue develop as the body’s metabolism processes become unable to break down needed nutrients from food materials.

Aches and Pains

Opium effects disrupt nerve signal processes, which is how the drug works to relieve pain symptoms. Opium withdrawal develops out of brain imbalances caused by the drug. These imbalances result in erratic nerve signals, which cause random aches and pains throughout the body.

Sweats and Chills

As the central nervous system plays an essential role in regulating body temperature, chemical imbalances in the brain impair this overall function. With opium withdrawal, users may experience episodes of profuse sweating followed by chills.

Gastrointestinal Distress

Gastrointestinal problems result from opium’s effects on digestive processes. Over time, users start to experience stomach cramps and diarrhea on a more frequent basis.

Respiratory Distress

This symptom of opium withdrawal accounts for the majority of overdose deaths caused by opium addictions. In effect, opium impairs respiratory processes to the point where a person can stop breathing altogether.

Psychological Symptoms of Opium Withdrawal

Emotional Instability

Over time, chemical imbalances in the brain start to interfere with a person’s overall emotional stability. In turn, opium withdrawal brings on persistent feelings of irritability and ongoing fluctuations in mood and temperament.

Cognitive Dysfunction

Cognitive dysfunction generally takes the form of:

  • Confused thought processes
  • Poor decision making
  • Inability to concentrate

These symptoms can make it difficult to function normally in everyday life.


Opium effects on the brain centers regulating cognition and emotions makes users more prone to experiencing bouts of anxiety. In effect, a person’s “fight or flight” response remains active most of the time.


As the brain’s cognitive and emotional centers become more impaired, abnormal chemical secretions cause ongoing feelings of depression to develop. Depression symptoms of opium withdrawal account for why it’s so easy to relapse after abstaining from the drug.


Symptoms of opium withdrawal all work together in creating an addiction to the drug. Ultimately, both the body and the mind become dependent on opium’s effects to the point where drug-seeking behaviors start to take over a person’s priorities, motivations and overall lifestyle.

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