Why Opiate Withdrawal is So Difficult & How Methadone Can Help

Opiate abuse can develop out of a treatment need, boredom or as a way to take the edge off of a stressful day. As the most fast and effective pain-relieving agents on the market, prescription opiates appear in most anyone’s medicine cabinet, which makes them easily accessible for non-medicinal uses.

Whether taken for treatment purposes or on one’s own, users can enter into a cycle of diminishing returns over time as far as opiate effects go. Opiate withdrawal develops out of this cycle. Once opiate withdrawal takes shape, it becomes increasingly difficult to stop using the drug.

After so many months or years of outright opiate abuse, brain and body functions cross a point of no return in terms being able to function normally in the absence of opiate effects. Couple this with a developing addiction problem and stopping drug use becomes a losing battle. Methadone’s chemical makeup and therapeutic effects can go a long way towards helping recovering addicts overcome the difficulty of opiate withdrawal.

Opiate Withdrawal Conditions

People trying to stop opiate use after long-term use are left to contend with the physiological brain dysfunction that results from opiate abuse practices. According to Harvard Health Publications, opiates work by taking control of brain neurotransmitter activities and forcing key cells to secrete larger than normal amounts of chemicals.

Opiate Withdrawal

Headaches and restlessness are common during opiate withdrawal.

These interactions not only create chemical imbalances throughout the brain, but also overwork individual cells sites, causing structural damage over time. Under these conditions, stopping opiate use leaves the brain to function in a severely compromised state. Consequently, a person stands to experience highly uncomfortable opiate withdrawal effects, including:

  • Headaches
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Diarrhea
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Profuse sweating
  • Confusing thinking
  • Fatigue
  • Drug cravings
  • Agitation
  • Restlessness
  • Irritability
  • Mood swings

While these effects can vary in severity form person to person, people coming off chronic drug use histories experience the very worst of these effects. Not surprisingly, the urge to use opiates becomes incredibly overwhelming, which accounts for the high risk of relapse that’s present during an opiate withdrawal period.


According to the University of Maryland, methadone was first developed in the 1930s as an alternative to morphine due to its low abuse and addiction potential. As of the 1960’s, methadone’s therapeutic benefits as an opiate addiction treatment drug came to the forefront.

Methadone, a synthetic opiate compound, affects the brain’s neurotransmitter processes in ways similar to that of addictive opiates. Methadone differs from addictive opiates in that it produces long-acting effects that carry a considerably lower potential for abuse and addiction.

When used for opiate withdrawal purposes, methadone supports opiate dependent brain cells without forcing cells to produce excess amounts of neurotransmitter chemicals. In this respect, methadone not only weans the brain off addictive opiates, but also helps restore a normal chemical imbalance in the brain.


During the course of drug use, opiate withdrawal becomes a driving force behind continued drug use. The longer a person keeps abusing opiates, the greater the role opiate withdrawal plays in driving continued drug use. Without the type of physical support that methadone provides, the damage to brain chemical process makes it all but impossible for long-term drug users to maintain abstinence for any length of time.

If you or someone you know struggles with opiate withdrawal effects and have more questions, please feel free to call our toll-free helpline at 800-678-5931(Paid Advertiser) to speak with one of our addictions specialists.

Looking for Help?
Call Today 800-678-5931

Call to Find a Methadone ClinicPhone icon800-813-6196 Info iconPaid Advertiser

Where do calls go?

Calls to numbers on a specific treatment center listing will be routed to that treatment center. Calls to any general helpline will be answered or returned by one of the treatment providers listed, each of which is a paid advertiser: Rehab Media Group, Recovery Helpline, Alli Addiction Services.

By calling the helpline you agree to the terms of use. We do not receive any commission or fee that is dependent upon which treatment provider a caller chooses. There is no obligation to enter treatment.