Opioid Addiction: Signs, Symptoms, & When To Get Help

Opioids are a group of substances that include heroin and prescription medications such as morphine, Vicodin, fentanyl, OxyContin, and more.

Understanding Opioid Addiction

Learn about opioid addiction

These substances, which are central nervous system depressants, work to reduce an individual’s ability to feel pain, while also bringing on feelings of euphoria and contentment. The effects that are produced by the use of opioids often cause many individuals to get stuck within a pattern of problematic abuse of these substances. While prescription opioids can supply extreme relief to those who possess a medical need for them, they can also cause severe problems if they are consumed in a manner that is opposite of prescribing guidelines. Many individuals use opioids recreationally just to obtain a high. As individuals abuse opioids, it is likely that they will start to suffer functional problems in all aspects of their lives. The longer that the abuse of opioids lasts for, the more likely these individuals are to becoming addicted to these dangerous substances. As soon as an opioids addiction develops, it can be very hard to defeat without professional help.


Opioid addiction statistics

The American Psychiatric Association (APA) states that opioid use disorder impacts 0.37% of the adult population. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports that between 26 and 36 million people worldwide are abusing opioids. Within America, over two million people battle with opioid-related prescription medication abuse.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and risk factors for opioid addiction

The causes and risk factors that have been connected to the development of opioid use disorder can be explained through the following:

Genetic: According to the APA, genetic factors play a significant role in boosting one’s chances of abusing and becoming addicted to opioids. When a family history of substance abuse is present, whether it is a past filled with opioid abuse or the abuse of another substance, individuals are more likely to partake in similar behaviors than those who do not have the same family history.

Environmental: Individuals who were raised or reside in an area in which drug use is common are vulnerable to also abusing substances, such as opioids, themselves. Additionally, individuals who require opioid medications or are close to someone who needs this type of medical intervention are also more likely to abuse prescription opioids when compared to individuals who do not have such easy access to opioid painkillers.

Risk Factors:

  • Being in the company of other individuals who abuse opioids or other types of substances
  • Personal history of abusing other types of substances
  • Having a novelty-seeking personality
  • Possessing an impulsive temperament
  • Family history of substance abuse and addiction

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of opioid addiction

The signs and symptoms that might indicate that someone is abusing opioids will vary from individual to individual, but can include the following:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Withdrawing from family and friends
  • No longer engaging in activities that were once enjoyed
  • Continuing to abuse opioids despite having the desire to stop
  • Declined occupational performance
  • Engaging in drug-related crimes
  • Using opioids in situations that are physically hazardous, such as while driving
  • Slurred speech
  • No longer adhering to responsibilities in favor of using opioids

Physical symptoms:

  • Insomnia
  • Pupillary constriction
  • Drowsiness
  • Psychomotor agitation and retardation

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Memory impairment
  • Impaired judgment
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Cravings
  • Concentration and attention difficulties

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Euphoria followed by apathy
  • No longer finding interest in things that one once enjoyed
  • Depression


Effects of opioid addiction

If an individual continues to partake in continued opioid abuse, he or she becomes likely to suffer from a number of negative effects, including the following:

  • Cognitive impairment
  • Disturbances of reproductive functioning in women
  • Loss of child custody
  • Legal problems due to engaging in criminal behavior, including incarceration
  • Occupational failure
  • Demise of marriages or partnerships
  • Financial strife
  • Homelessness
  • Erectile dysfunction in men
  • Destroyed friendships
  • Heart attack
  • Onset of new, or worsening of current, mental illness symptoms
  • Seizures
  • Stroke

Co-Occurring Disorders

Opioid addiction and co-occurring disorders

It is common for individuals who are trapped within the throes of opioid addiction to also be struggling with symptoms of other types of mental health problems simultaneously. Examples of various disorders that have been known to occur at the same time as opioid use disorder can include:

  • Stimulant use disorder
  • Alcohol use disorder
  • Persistent depressive disorder
  • Major depressive disorder
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Other substance use disorders

Withdrawal and Overdose

Opioid withdrawal and overdose

Effects of opioid withdrawal: When an individual suddenly stops his or her use of opioids, he or she is likely to suffer a period of withdrawal as his or her body works to readjust to its previous level of functioning. This process of withdrawal can be very painful and can include the following symptoms:

  • Vomiting
  • Excessive sweating
  • Dysphoric mood (feeling in a constant state of unease)
  • Muscle aching
  • Yawning
  • Pupil dilation
  • Insomnia
  • Fever
  • Nausea

Effects of opioid overdose: When an individual ingests more of an opioid than his or her body can metabolize or process, he or she is at risk for suffering an overdose. Overdosing on a substance can be very dangerous, and an overdose on opioids is no different. Therefore, it is critical that emergency medical attention is obtained if an individual shows any of the following symptoms:

  • Labored or shallow breathing
  • Severe dizziness
  • Seizures
  • Extreme confusion
  • Slurred speech
  • Cold, clammy skin
What our clients are saying

After seeing so many die to the opioid epidemic, I knew that I had to get help before it was too help. The staff at Huntington Creek was able to help me find out the root cause of my addiction and helped me beat this disease.

– Former Patient
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