Butorphanol Abuse: Signs, Symptoms, Withdrawal Risks & Treatment

Butorphanol is a synthetic opioid prescribed to treat moderate to severe pain caused by headaches, surgery, and labor. Butorphanol is available under the brand name Stadol, and carries a high risk for physical dependence and addiction — especially when used for longer than a few weeks.

Understanding Butorphanol Abuse

Butorphanol is usually prescribed as nasal spray for those seeking relief from moderate to severe pain. This opioid is intended for short-term use, since long-term use of two weeks or more increases the risk for physical dependence and addiction. As time goes by, butorphanol users can develop a tolerance to the drug, and increase their doses and/or use the drug more frequently to chase a stronger high.

Many butorphanol users tend to abuse the drug for its drowsy and euphoric effects. However, butorphanol has a ceiling effect that prevents users from experiencing additional pain relief when the drug is used in high doses. Many times, users are not aware of exactly how butorphanol works, and continue to abuse the drug anyway to seek greater euphoria — putting their lives at risk.

Individuals who quit using butorphanol after abusing the drug may experience cravings and withdrawal symptoms. These side effects can cause pain and discomfort, and influence users to continue taking butorphanol to avoid withdrawal. Long-term butorphanol use increases the risk for addiction, along with serious health complications that could lead to coma or death.

Signs and Symptoms of Butorphanol Abuse

Butorphanol abuse often causes physical and behavioral changes in its users due to the way this drug alters brain chemistry and triggers addiction. You may be abusing butorphanol if you use the drug more frequently than prescribed, use higher doses, or use the drug without a valid prescription. Spraying a dose of butorphanol in each nostril also indicates you may be struggling with drug abuse.

Common signs and symptoms of butorphanol abuse include:

  • Poor concentration
  • Poor judgment
  • Memory loss
  • Fatigue
  • Extreme drowsiness
  • Dry throat
  • Euphoria
  • Hallucinations
  • Delusions
  • Breathing problems
  • Cravings and withdrawal when quitting butorphanol

Dangers & Risk Factors Associated with Butorphanol Abuse

When abused and used long-term, butorphanol carries several dangerous health risks that increase your risk for coma and death. Butorphanol is also deadly when used with other substances that slow down the central nervous system, including alcohol, barbiturates, and muscle relaxers. Butorphanol abuse can lead to a full-blown problem with addiction when not treated in its early stages, and interfere with your overall livelihood and well-being.

Dangers commonly associated with butorphanol abuse include:

  • Anaphylactic shock
  • Respiratory depression
  • Digestion problems
  • Extreme drowsiness
  • Confusion
  • Overdose
  • Coma
  • Death

Since butorphanol is a synthetic opioid, abusing the drug can cause adverse reactions such as anaphylactic shock. This opioid also causes slowed breathing and aspiration, which can lead to coma and death. Butorphanol inhibits motility of the gastrointestinal tract, and increases the risk for accidents on behalf of drowsiness and confusion.

In some instances, butorphanol serves as a gateway drug to more powerful opioids such as morphine, heroin, and fentanyl. These highly potent drugs increase the risk for an overdose and death — especially when purchased on the streets and mixed or cut with counterfeit or dangerous substances.

Who’s At Risk of Butorphanol Abuse & Addiction?

Those at high risk for butorphanol abuse and addiction are those who have been using the opioid for longer than a few weeks, and those who have developed a tolerance to the drug. Developing a tolerance to butorphanol may cause you to start using higher doses, especially if you meet certain risk factors.

You may be at high risk for butorphanol abuse and addiction if you meet any of the following risk factors:

  • You have a personal history of drug abuse or addiction
  • You have a family history of drug abuse or addiction
  • You suffer one or more mental health disorders (co-occurring disorders)
  • You have a history of trauma or abuse
  • You are surrounded by negative influences at home
  • You have problems at work, school, or home
  • You experience high levels of stress on a regular basis

Many times, individuals use drugs like butorphanol to self-medicate and cope with problems in their personal lives. For instance, you may be at high risk for butorphanol abuse and addiction if you suffer from PTSD and use the drug to escape feelings of depression.

Butorphanol Addiction

Butorphanol has a high potential for addiction due to the way this opioid alters your brain chemistry and increases dopamine — also known as the reward center of your brain. Butorphanol users feel instant pain relief when the opioid hits their systems, along with an overwhelming sense of euphoria and happiness that triggers the need for higher and more frequent doses.

Since butorphanol is a prescription medication, many addicts engage in a practice called doctor shopping to seek extra supply. Doctor shopping is when patients visit multiple physicians in different healthcare networks to obtain multiple prescriptions for butorphanol. When doctors stop prescribing butorphanol, users then head to the streets to purchase illicit butorphanol or deadly opioids that are mixed or cut with dangerous substances.

Am I Addicted to Butorphanol?

When you’re struggling with addiction, you may not know you have a serious problem until it’s too late. If you use butorphanol and think you might have a problem with addiction, ask yourself the following questions to determine whether you need help:

  • Do I use butorphanol more frequently than prescribed and/or in higher doses?
  • Have I been using butorphanol for longer than directed?
  • Do I keep my butorphanol use a secret from others?
  • Do I steal or use someone else’s butorphanol?
  • Do I trade or buy butorphanol from others?
  • Have I considered using a stronger drug to overcome tolerance to butorphanol?
  • Do I mix butorphanol with other substances?
  • Do I make excuses to use butorphanol?
  • Do I experience cravings and withdrawal symptoms when quitting butorphanol?
  • Do I engage in doctor shopping to obtain more butorphanol?
  • Do I have problems staying motivated or performing normal daily tasks?
  • Do I neglect my personal health and hygiene?
  • Is butorphanol use causing problems with my career, education, and relationships?

If you answered yes to one or more of these questions, you may be suffering from butorphanol abuse or addiction. Your next step is to seek help at an addiction treatment center that specializes in treating opioid addiction.

Butorphanol Addiction Treatment Options

Butorphanol addiction is commonly treated using detoxification, counseling, and aftercare. These three therapies treat addiction as a whole both physically and mentally so you face a greater chance of maintaining lifelong sobriety following rehab. Most drug rehab centers will customize addiction treatments just for you or your loved one based on addiction status, personal recovery needs, and unique history with addiction.

Detox helps you overcome physical dependency on butorphanol, while counseling helps you identify and manage behaviors and/or mental health disorders driving psychological causes of addiction. Aftercare programs consist of ongoing education, support groups, and individual, group, and family counseling sessions.


Detoxification is the first stage of addiction treatment, and helps you withdraw safely from butorphanol and other opioids. Following detox, you’ll no longer experience cravings and withdrawal symptoms associated with butorphanol use. Detox helps improve your overall physical health, and offers you the mental clarity needed to overcome addiction through counseling and support groups.

Butorphanol withdrawal symptoms can begin anywhere within two and 24 hours of quitting the drug, depending on your addiction level.

Common butorphanol withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Sweating
  • Irritability
  • Agitation
  • Insomnia
  • High fever
  • Chills
  • Muscle cramps
  • High blood pressure
  • Diarrhea
  • Muscle aches
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Convulsions

Butorphanol detox is usually performed using one of two methods: tapering and medical detox. Holistic and all-natural detox treatments are also available for those who want to withdraw from butorphanol without the use of drugs or medications.

Tapering is when your doctor gradually reduces your butorphanol dosage over time until you’re no longer using or physically dependent on the drug. This detox method helps you avoid the cravings and withdrawal symptoms that normally occur when quitting butorphanol abruptly, or cold turkey.

Medical detox allows you to withdraw from butorphanol in a safe, controlled environment with 24/7 access to medical staff who can monitor you throughout treatment. You may be prescribed medications that ease one or more withdrawal symptoms to make your recovery more comfortable and less painful. For instance, you may be prescribed an anticonvulsant medication to prevent convulsions and seizures.

Holistic and natural detox involves the use of treatments including acupuncture, IV vitamin therapy, and daily therapeutic massage to help you get safely and comfortably through withdrawal. These treatments are often combined with exercise, nutrition counseling, and yoga to boost your immunity following detox.


After detox, drug rehab centers help you overcome underlying mental causes of butorphanol addiction using counseling, support groups, and other therapies aimed at helping you establish a drug-free life. Your stay at drug rehab can last anywhere between 30 days and several months, or as long as needed until you’ve fully overcome addiction. The skills you learn at drug rehab can help you manage real-life situations that could lead to relapse and butorphanol use.

Butorphanol addiction treatment can take place in an outpatient, residential, or inpatient setting. Outpatient settings allow patients to live at home and visit the clinic several times per week for treatment. Outpatient drug rehab is ideal for those who must also balance work, education, and/or family, and who have safe, supportive home environments free of drugs and negative influences.

Inpatient and residential drug rehab centers allow you to live at the facility for the duration of addiction treatment, and offer 24/7 access to caring and supportive medical staff. Inpatient drug rehab is ideal for those who need help establishing new daily routines free of butorphanol use, and who need safe environments in which to recover away from negative influences.