What are the stages of opiate use disorder?

January 5, 2023

There are five stages: tolerance, dependence, withdrawal, cravings, and misuse:

  1. Opioids attach themselves to opiate receptors in the brain and spinal cord, or central nervous system, possibly treating any pain and causing feelings of euphoria, frequently referred to as a “high”. Soon thereafter, the body produces more receptors, so that a higher dose of opioid is needed to achieve the same effect.
  2. Dependence is a state in which the body is unable to function normally without regular doses of the opioid.
  3. Withdrawal is closely linked with dependence. This refers to the signs and symptoms experienced when the opioid is stopped. The symptoms may include:
    • Anxiety
    • Tremulousness 
    • Abdominal cramps and diarrhea
    • Nausea and vomiting
    • Sweating
  4. Cravings are thoughts of the need to take opioid drugs.
  5. Misuse is taking more than the prescribed dose of opioids, for non-medical purposes, often without a prescription, frequently from non-pharmaceutical sources (street drugs). At this point the drug can be laced with unknown and dangerous drugs (e.g. carfentanyl) and is frequently produced under non-sterile conditions.

Talk to your doctor if you believe you may be in one of these categories. Suboxone can be successfully prescribed for patients suffering from opioid-use disorder. QuickMD is able to prescribe this via telemedicine can help you get plugged in with counseling.