Depression after Opiates

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Depression after Opiates

Depression after Quitting Opiates

Depression after Quitting Opiates

Many people experience depression after quitting opiates. Because of the ways opioids interact with the chemistry of the brain, there may be long-term effects of opioid abuse for a period after you quit using. Some people end up returning to rehab for depression as it can be overwhelming.

You should know that you are not alone in this experience. Opiate withdrawal symptoms can be pervasive, long-lasting, and incredibly uncomfortable. Sometimes referred to as opiate depression or heroin depression, many individuals find themselves experiencing bouts of clinical depression while getting clean.

Depression after opiatesUnderstanding PAWS

Some people experience Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome, commonly known as PAWS. A person may experience symptoms of PAWS from other substances than opioids. Although symptoms of PAWS may vary, there are a few that are common amongst opiate users. These include:

  • Memory Problems
  • Sensitivity to stress
  • Trouble processing information or thinking clearly
  • Problems sleeping or insomnia
  • Trouble feeling emotions, especially joy
  • Depression

Depression after opiates happens to some people. It can catch people by surprise, as it may arise some time after getting sober. Unfortunately, this is often the part of the withdrawal and recovery process from opiate addiction. The good news is that you’re not alone, and there are many ways you can find help!

Opioids act on the opioid receptors in the brain, impacting how we feel pain, our sense of well-being, and eventually euphoria. When a person takes opiates repeatedly or over a long period of time, the brain becomes accustomed to the intake of drugs. As such the brain actually develops more opioid receptors, which means an individual needs to use more opioids to achieve the same effect.

When the person stops using the drugs, they are left with too many receptors. Things that naturally produce endorphins and dopamine don’t work in the same way that they would in a person who has not abused opiates. For example, the individual will not get the same effect from running, sex, food, or social connection that a non-drug-user would


Because of this increase in opioid receptors, the person may experience these symptoms of post acute withdrawal syndrome. The change in the nervous system can result in increased sensitivity to pain (physical and emotional), changes in mood, and depression.

Symptoms of Depression

Symptoms of depression after quitting opiates are the same as symptoms of major depression. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, symptoms of depression may include:

  • Consistent state of sadness or emptiness
  • Feeling of hopelessness
  • Feelings of unworthiness
  • Difficulty completing tasks
  • Decrease in energy
  • Abnormal eating habits
  • Abnormal sleeping patterns
  • Restlessness and irritability
  • Physical manifestations such as headaches or stomach pains

You may experience some or all of these symptoms, and they may not arise immediately after you stop using opioids. Opiate depression may arise weeks or months after you quit using. Because of the nature of the brain and its reaction to opiate consumption, symptoms of depression may arise weeks, months, or even years after quitting the drugs.

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Finding Help for Depression

Many people don’t realize that you can go to rehab for depression, even if you’re sober. Although it is a hard decision to make, it can be a life-saving one. Depression can cause quite a bit of harm to individuals and those that care about them.

There are many therapists, psychiatrists, and treatment centers that specialize in treating those with depression. You can even find a clinician who specializes in working specifically with depression after quitting opiates. The point is, you’re not alone and there are resources out there.

If you or somebody you know is struggling with depression and may be in danger of harming themselves, please reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-8255.

If you’re interested in writing for Orange County Rehab, feel free to contact us.

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