Signs of Opioid Addiction

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By: Renaissance Recovery

Medically Reviewed by: Diana Vo, LMFT

Last Updated: 7/1/2021

signs of opioid abuse

Authored By: Joe Gilmore

Table of Contents

Opiates, also known as “opioid painkillers,” include prescription drugs such as hydrocodone, fentanyl and morphine. These substances are effective pain relievers when taken as directed by a physician. However, the calming effects that opioid painkillers produce are habit-forming and can lead to future patterns of abuse. Fortunately, there are opiate rehab centers in place to help those who are struggling.

Those people who use them, they often don’t know how to recognize the signs of opioid addiction because, in their minds, the drugs are working and their pain is under control. It’s important to be able to understand the signs of opioid addiction whether you’re the one taking prescription medication or if a loved one is exhibiting signs of opioid addiction. It’s also important to remember that as the addiction advances, people will go to extreme lengths to get the drugs.

Some will even go to extreme lengths to get high quicker, or with more intensity. This may mean smoking, snorting or injecting it. In the early stages of addictions, examples of opiate abuse include taking the medication more frequently or in larger amounts than originally prescribed. Continued patterns of opiate abuse can lead to a spiraling addiction, which is difficult to overcome without the help of medical professionals.

If you suspect a loved one is struggling with a dependence on painkillers, it’s important to take action immediately before the situation becomes worse. Studies show that identifying drug abuse early on is the most effective way of preventing an addiction from developing.

Signs of An Opioid Addiction

To help identify whether someone is battling a painkiller abuse problem, there are several physical and behavioral warning signs to watch out for. The most common physical and behavioral signs of opiate abuse and addiction are:

  • Needle marks on arms and legs from intravenous (injected) use
  • Constricted, “pinpoint” pupils
  • Having trouble staying awake, or falling asleep at inappropriate times
  • Flushed, itchy skin
  • Withdrawing from social activities that were once enjoyed
  • Sudden and dramatic mood swings that seem out of character
  • Impulsive actions and decision-making
  • Engaging in risky activities, such as driving under the influence
  • Visiting multiple doctors in order to obtain more prescriptions

Once a substance use disorder is identified, it’s vital to seek support as soon as possible. Some people are able to shed their abuse and addictive habits by talking to their doctor about adjusting their current prescription. Others may consider joining a 12-step program or meeting with a substance abuse counselor. However, those who have fallen victim to addiction will generally require intensive care at an inpatient rehab center.

Immediate Side Effects of Opiates

Short-term side effects of opioid painkillers depend on the type of drug, how much of the substance is taken and how it is administered. The effects of these drugs typically occur within 15 to 30 minutes and may last up to several hours. The immediate side effects of painkiller use include:

  • Relaxed state of mind and body
  • Feelings of calmness
  • Increased or false confidence
  • Slowed and shallow breathing
  • Impaired judgment
  • Itchy, flushed skin
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Blurred vision
  • Weight loss
  • Hallucinations
  • Euphoric mood
  • Lightheadedness

Opioid Addiction Withdrawal Symptoms

If you’re addicted to opioids, abstaining will typically trigger the following opioid addiction withdrawal symptoms. This applies whether it’s a chronic pain opioid addiction or an addiction to a synthetic opioid like fentanyl, or a semi-synthetic opioid like heroin.

  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety
  • Agitation
  • Sweating
  • Tremors
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Muscle aches
  • Generalized discomfort

These opioid addiction withdrawal symptoms manifest even if you have only developed a mild dependence on prescription opioids.

How long the symptoms last and how intense they depend on a range of factors, including:

●  The type of opioids in question

●  How long you have been addicted

●  The number of opioids you’re taking

You should not underestimate the strength and intensity of opioid withdrawal symptoms. In the event of a moderate or severe opioid addiction, you should seek medical guidance before attempting to quit.

Some people addicted to opioids find that MAT (medication-assisted treatment) combined with counseling and evidence-based therapy is the best route to sobriety.

Opioid Addiction: Treatment

In order to diagnose opioid use disorder, you need to discuss your current usage and your health with your doctor. You could also engage with a treatment center.

Opioid addiction is a multifaceted disease that impacts all areas of your life, including:

●  Mental health

●  Physical wellbeing

●  Environment

●  Social relationships

Successful treatment programs will address all these areas.

In some cases of severe opioid addiction, hospitalization is recommended.

Regardless of what comes next, the first stage of treatment involves detox. This enables you to withdraw from opioids with the support and medication in place to help you deal with the unpleasant withdrawal symptoms outlined above.

Detoxification alone is seldom sufficient to treat opioid addiction. While it’s a crucial step on the road to recovery, there’s still plenty of hard work to come.

Sometimes, replacement therapy is offered with methadone or buprenorphine prescribed on a tapered basis. This way, you can wean yourself gradually away from your opioid addiction.

Inpatient treatment for opioid addiction will help you to tackle all facets of your addiction through a combination of:

●  Medication-assisted treatment

●  Counseling

●  Therapy

●  Vocational programs

●  Support groups

●  12-step programs

These programs can last for a few weeks or a few months depending on the nature of your addiction.

In most cases, you’ll be able to get away with outpatient rehab for opioid addiction, and that’s where we’re here to help.

Recognizing an Opiate Addiction

Identifying an addiction to opioids isn’t always easy. There’s confusion between what is considered abuse, and what is considered addiction in the eyes of some people. Some who are caught up in the throes of addiction tell themselves little lies, like “I can quit at any time.” Medically speaking, abuse is defined by any inappropriate use of medications, such as:

  • Taking larger amounts of a medication than prescribed
  • Consuming a medication that was not prescribed to them
  • Mixing medication with another substance, such as alcohol, to exaggerate the drug’s effects

All three of these are signs of opioid addiction and must be taken seriously. This is black and white, no gray area.

Of course, not everyone who uses painkillers will get becomes addicted. However, if a person is abusing drugs, or consuming them in large amounts or for extended periods of time is more likely to become an addict. The telltale characteristics of addiction include intense cravings and a strong desire to obtain or use the drug – despite any negative consequences that may occur.

A person suffering from addiction is incapable of controlling the level of their substance use. They may desperately want to quit, but they feel unable to do so on their own. They will sacrifice everything to get the drug – family, children, friends, career – and even turn a blind eye to criminal convictions. At this point, they’re in deep trouble – the addiction has taken control of their life. If you think about this, it’s amazing just how nonchalantly addicts will take such giant risks to get a drug. They know the consequences could include:

  • Losing a job due to prioritizing substance use overwork responsibilities
  • Financial issues stemming from spending too much money on new prescriptions
  • Criminal charges for possessing painkillers without a prescription
  • Damaged relationships with family members, friends, and romantic partners

The only conclusion is that addiction is so powerful, it destroys all ability to reason.

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Get Help from Renaissance Recovery

If you need help overcoming substance abuse, reach out to a treatment center today. You can start by contacting a recovery center, like our California rehab. They’ll walk you through your options and make recommendations. Whatever your choice, you need to stop enabling addicts – your enabling could cost them their life.

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