What are the symptoms of opioid dependence?

The symptoms of opioid dependence include the following:1

  • A strong desire or craving to take opioids daily
  • A struggle or even inability to take control of the level or amount you use
  • The experience of ’cold turkey’ or unpleasant physical withdrawal pains leading to the desire to then use opioids to relieve the pain of withdrawal
  • An awareness that you are causing harm to yourself and yet you cannot stop using the drug
  • Your lifestyle becomes chaotic swinging between time spent finding opioids and at the same time attempting to recover from using it
  • You are unable to go to work and perform normal routine daily tasks until you have the drug in your system.

You do not have to experience all of these symptoms to be considered opioid dependent.1

How do I know if I am dependent on opioids?

Opioid dependence usually develops after a period of regular opioid use.2 The level of dependence will vary from person to person. The best way to find out if you are dependent on opioids is to talk with your doctor. The doctor should be able to signpost you to a professional treatment service that can help you with your dependence.


1. World Health Organisation. The ICD-10 Classification of Mental and Behavioural Disorders. World Health Organisation. 2016.

2. Evans CJ, Cahill CM. Neurobiology of opioid dependence in creating addiction vulnerability. F1000Res. 2016; 5.

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