The Signs of Opiate Addiction

A prominent issue that is currently affecting the United States is the opioid addiction crisis. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, more than 130 people in the United States die from an opioid overdose everyday and prescription opioid misuse costs the United States approximately 78.5 billion dollars per year.

This crisis began in the late 1990s when companies promised the medical community that pain medications were not addictive, and more and more of these kinds of drugs were dispensed. However, this also led to a wide misuse, and the number of people that have been affected by this crisis has been growing year after year ever since.

So what specifically causes opioid addiction? Opioids work by creating artificial endorphins that not only make you feel good, but also blocks pain. Too much pain causes a dependency on the brain to have more of these artificial endorphins circulate the body. Eventually, the brain may stop producing its own endorphins and this can eventually lead to developing tolerance to the drugs.

The physical manifestations can be obvious to some, but each case can present differently. Here are some of the more prominent signs that someone may have an opiate substance abuse problem. Knowing these signs are important to recognising a problem in yourself or a loved one.

Changes In Behavior

One of the clearest signs of substance abuse are changes in behavior. Typically, abuse can lead the affected person to avoid eye contact with loved ones, have frequent mood swings, and increased irritability. It is also very common for them to experience nervousness, or being unusually excited. However, this can also lead to a drastic change in energy levels, typically without warning.

The most difficult part in noticing the behavior changes is that it is typically unorthodox and associated with a rapid change. Those who know the individual well will be able to recognize that something is wrong.

Increasing Drowsiness

Another prominent sign of substance abuse involving opioids is frequent drowsiness and detachment. Once again, those who know the affected individual will have a better knowledge of how they look normally and can therefore better tell if something is wrong in this regard. If someone is suffering from increased drowsiness their general awareness will be lacking and they may be frequently seen “nodding off” or falling asleep. Varying levels of consciousness can also be frequently seen. This drowsiness has also been commonly associated with personality changes and decision-making difficulties.

Transitioning Into Heroin Use

Unfortunately for those who suffer from substance abuse and addiction, there is typically no easy recourse. In fact, after taking opioids and pain medication irresponsibly, many users transition to using heroin. First, a behavior commonly referred to as “doctor shopping”, takes place. This happens when a patient obtains prescriptions from multiple doctors without any of the doctors knowing the client has already obtained a prescription. Claims of prescriptions getting stolen, lost or eaten by animals are a common attempt to get more prescriptions.

Another problem which leads some users to start taking heroin is the claim that their pain is either not getting better or is worsening. Heroin is also used as an alternative to fulfill cravings and satisfy an urge to use opiates. Addiction to heroin is commonly related to previous abuse of opioids.

Change In Activity Involvement

Once again, this may be most commonly observed by loved ones and friends. When someone has a problem with opioid abuse (or with any other drug), withdrawal from prior commitments and activities are very common. This typically involves either work, school or anything they previously had interest in. Developing a different routine, socialising with different people or reacting differently than they normally would have before is commonly associated with abuse. It is important to distinguish whether or not these changes are a product of abuse or if there are any other underlying issues that are causing stress. If this is a prolonged, consistent issue, then abuse can be suspected.

Short-Term Physical Symptoms

Abuse of opioids can bring about symptoms in the short-term. These symptoms can include vomiting, nausea, slowed breathing, drowsiness, and itching. After some resort to heroin, pupil constriction, flushed skin, and dry mouth are very common. Something that is also common with all opioids is the problem of constipation. This can lead the opioid users to start a laxative regimens.

In summary, here are common opioid addiction signs:

  • Euphoria
  • Mood swings
  • Dependence
  • Constipation
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Pain sensitivity
  • Shallow breathing
  • Behavioral changes
  • Loss of interest

How Can Opiate Addiction Be Treated?

Much like the physical manifestations, treatment for opioid abuse varies on a case by case basis. The primary goal of any treatment is the ultimate cessation of using the drug. It should be noted that when one stops using opioids, the body has to re-adjust to the new levels of the drug in the body. The sensation is called withdrawal and this leads to anxiety, nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain.

A doctor will prioritize prescribing medicines to help these withdrawal symptoms and control cravings. The most common drugs of use for heroin withdrawal are methadone and buprenorphine. These drugs work by targeting the centers in the brain that opioids target. The difference is that they do not make you feel high, but rather, they restore brain balance.

As a means to control relapse, naltrexone may be prescribed to help a user prevent themselves from using the drug again. Non-pharmacological interventions are also used to aid treatment. Behavior therapies are used in order to manage depression, cravings and potentially heal relationships damaged as a result of the drug abuse. Sometimes, family counseling or cognitive therapy are used if the situation warrants it.

Opioid addiction affects millions of people each year and remains a prevalent issue not only in the United States, but across the world. Through integrative treatment and medications to counteract the damage, the hope is that the number of people addicted will gradually decrease. If an opiate substance abuse problem is not addressed in a timely manner, there could be permanent damage done.

If you or a loved one is suffering from an opiate abuse or addiction problem, St John’s Recovery Place is here to help. Feel free to call us and speak with our admissions department to find out more about the options available for treatment to start the path to recover.

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