Opioid Addiction: Scary Signs & Symptoms of this Deadly Addiction
17 January, 2023
Opioids are generally prescribed to help in relieving pain due to their sedative and analgesic effects. However, continuous non-medical use of these drugs results in physical and mental dependence, causing one to develop chronic opioid addiction.
Opioid abuse is one of the major health problems in the United States. The opioid epidemic has become a major cause of death in the US. Individuals who consume this drug experience a feeling of euphoria and heightened well-being, prompting them to consume more of it.
To avoid such grave consequences, individuals must be aware of the signs and symptoms of opioid addiction and the related treatment options. Many opioid drugs, prescription or otherwise, are among the most dangerous drugs to abuse.
Signs and Symptoms of Opioid Addiction
In the initial days, it is difficult to detect whether an individual is addicted to opioids. However, it becomes apparent as they keep consuming it for prolonged periods.
The signs and behavior associated with opioid addiction will not be the same for every individual and is rather patient-specific. The severity of the symptoms depends on the amount of drug taken, the method of drug intake, and the time they have been consuming it.
The behavioral, physical, psychosocial, and cognitive symptoms of opioid abuse are discussed below.
Behavioral Symptoms of Opioid Addiction
Poor performance in school or workplace
Disrupted sleeping and eating patterns
Buying medicines illicitly
Isolating oneself from society, family, and friends
Poor and erratic time schedule
Lack of interest in participating in hobbies
Physical Symptoms of Opioid Addiction
Lack of personal grooming and hygiene
Scabs or puncture wounds
Frequent flu-like symptoms
Nausea and vomiting
Shallow and slowed breathing rate
Joint and muscle pain
Mental Symptoms of Opioid Addiction
A sudden outburst of anger
Distorted views of reality
Cognitive Symptoms of Opioid Addiction
Difficulty in concentrating
Slow thinking and cognitive abilities (reasoning, thinking, remembering)
Individuals tend to develop a physical dependence on the drug. Physical dependency is a major symptom that shows that the individual has fallen prey to opioid addiction. The symptoms further become serious with increasing and chronic use of the drug.
Individuals continue with opioid consumption despite its fatal consequences on mental and physical health, financial security, and personal relationships. Another significant behavior of an individual addicted to heroin is their intense and irresistible urge to have the drug.
What are the Symptoms of Opioid Overdose?
Opioid overdose needs instant medical attention. Here are the following symptoms that are common when a person may be overdosing on opioids:
Loss of consciousness
Bluish tint on lips and fingernails
Abnormally constricted pupils
Delayed response to stimuli
Muscle spasms and tremors
To dodge fatal outcomes, individuals must be aware of the several reasons that contribute to opioid addiction.
Using opioids in an injectable form leads to an overdose
Resuming opioid usage after a long period of abstinence
Having pre-existing physical and mental conditions
Continuous usage of the drug without medical supervision
Using a higher dosage of opioids than the prescribed limit
Consuming opioids with other addictive substances like alcohol, barbiturates, benzodiazepines, and many other drugs
How do Opioids Work?
Opioids tend to bond with the brain cells' receptor sites. The human brain releases chemicals called endorphins that act similarly to opioids. Overconsumption of this drug causes the brain and the body to depend on it. Once the body starts adapting to the excessive use of opioids, the average amount of endorphins released by the brain seems less than the body’s needs, creating a deficit. This causes a craving for the drug.
When individuals consume excessive opioids, it causes the brain to release a sensation of pleasure and euphoria. Opioids reduce the pain signals the body sends to the brain. In addition, it alters how the brain reacts to pain and pleasure.
However, over time the body becomes less responsive towards opioids, requiring them to consume more of it to attain a happy feeling, ultimately leading to opioid overdose.
What are the Withdrawal Symptoms of Opioid Addiction?
With continuous usage, individuals become highly dependent on opioids. Hence, their body undergoes unpleasant withdrawal symptoms when they cease using the drug. In the absence of the drug, the body, and brain need to readjust their functioning.
The withdrawal symptoms of opioid addictions are as follows:
Nausea and vomiting
Significant loss of appetite
Anxiety and depression
Intense cravings for the drug
Individuals generally experience opioid withdrawal symptoms within 6-24 hours after they have stopped consuming the drug. The severity of the symptoms escalates within 72 hours.
What are the Risk Factors of Opioid Addiction?
Individuals develop opioid addiction over a period of time and often due to the presence of risk factors like biological, environmental, genetic, and psychological factors.
Genetics has a significant role in developing opioid addiction. If individuals have a family member with a history of drug addiction or any substance use disorder, it is likely for the individual also to fall prey to opioid addiction.
Researchers have hypothesized that psychological factors have a vital role in pushing one to develop opioid addiction. As the drug causes individuals to experience feelings of euphoria, reduced depression, and anxiety, it prompts them to use it frequently.
Consumption of opioids can also be triggered by others' influence. For instance, if an individual is from an environment where opioid consumption is a common practice or is used to cope with stress, it is likely for the individual to be addicted to the drug. Even the ones who start using drugs under peer pressure later fall prey to it.
Some individuals' brains do not release enough endorphins that will provide the sensation of pleasure. To mitigate such chemical imbalances, those individuals are likely to opt for opioid usage. In such cases, opioids act as a coping mechanism that helps them replace negative emotions with pleasurable feelings.
Opioid addiction can have severe consequences, affecting all facets of one's life. Some of the grave effects of opioid addiction include social problems, chronic insomnia, a history of drug-related crimes, financial problems, and severe health consequences like pulmonary complications, abscesses and more. Overdose of opioids is life-threatening.
Treatment Options for Opioid Addiction
There are several treatment procedures to help individuals come out of opioid addiction. The treatment processes prove effective when tailored to the individual needs of patients.
Generally, an opioid addiction treatment procedure commences with a medically supervised detoxification program. Detoxification eliminates the traces of the drug from the body, helping patients come out of opioid withdrawal symptoms. In order to sail through the unpleasant withdrawal symptoms, patients are provided with robust supportive measures. It helps to ease the severe symptoms and ensures that the treatment is carried out safely.
Counseling and Behavioral Therapies
Opioid addiction interferes with several facets of one’s life. Counseling and effective behavioral therapy will help patients detect the underlying cause and behaviors that prompt them to take up the habit of rigorous opioid consumption. Behavioral therapies intend to enhance the healthy life skills of patients. These therapies emphasize modifying patients' behavior and attitude towards drug usage and prove effective when backed by effective medications.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: This therapy helps patients recognize their thought processes and moods that prompt them to consume opioids. In Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, a therapist will guide patients on how to deal with these triggers, helping them come out of the vicious loop of opioid addiction. The main aim of the therapy is to lower drug use relapse.
Multi-Dimensional Family Therapy: Multi-Dimensional Family Therapy (MFDT) is a family-centered treatment method designed for adolescents to help them overcome drug addiction. This therapy model emphasizes the emotional and social needs of an adolescent, assisting youths to come out of antisocial and addictive behaviors.
Contingency Management: In Contingency Management (CM), therapists provide patients with motivational incentives to encourage them to fight their addiction.
Motivational Interview: In motivational interviewing sessions, therapists will motivate patients to practice abstinence from using opioids. Such therapy enhances the patient's readiness to undergo opioid addiction treatment and lead a healthy life.
Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)
Medication-Assisted Treatment together with behavioral therapies proves highly effective in treating opioid addiction. All the medications given under MAT are administered in a highly regulated clinical setting.
The right medications when administered in proper doses help patients replace the negative outcomes of illicit opioid usage with a positive and healthy experience of recovery from substance use disorder.
Naltrexone: Naltrexone is a very important medication that is used to treat opioid addiction. It blocks the sedative effects and the sensations of a euphoric rush and related psychological effects of the sedative. It acts like a mu-opioid receptor agonist and helps patients refrain from using it. This medication proves highly effective in preventing death resulting from an opioid overdose.
Methadone: Methadone helps in relieving withdrawal symptoms and intense cravings. Patients can have the medicine in the form of a pill or liquid. Methadone is a vital part of the drug addiction detoxification program that proves highly effective in managing acute pain.
Clonidine: Clonidine or tizanidine proved effective in combating opioid withdrawal and lowering depression and anxiety. This medication falls under the category of antihypertensive, which helps alleviate unpleasant opioid withdrawal symptoms.
Benzodiazepines: Benzodiazepines are essential in curing depression and anxiety that surface during opioid withdrawal. This medication helps in restoring brain balance and allows it to function properly. Remember, benzodiazepines are also highly addictive as well.
There is another medication named buprenorphine which helps in controlling cravings and has no side effects. It can be used to taper off the usage of opioids.
In conclusion, opioids have the ability to interact with brain cell receptors. Drug abuse causes several pharmacological, psychological, behavioral, and social issues in an abuser. If left untreated, it can even lead to an untimely death in the case of opioid overdose.
However, the above-mentioned treatment interventions help individuals successfully recover from severe opioid addiction.
Reach out to The Edge Treatment Center for Opioid Addiction Treatment
Get medication-assisted treatment from The Edge Treatment Center and eliminate opioid addiction. We help with evidence-based and tailored treatment plans that cater to the mental and physical conditions of every patient. In addition, The Edge Treatment Center offers different treatment options that include a dual diagnosis program, dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), EMDR, and other effective therapy options.
To emerge victorious from the vicious loop of opioid addiction, Contact The Edge Treatment Center today at 800-778-1772.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the co-occurring conditions of opioid addiction?
Individuals who are addicted to opioids are likely to struggle with mental health problems, including bipolar disorder, anxiety disorder, Attention-Deficit or Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), depressive disorder, and more.
How does Dialectical Behavior Therapy prove beneficial in curing opioid addiction?
Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is a type of behavioral therapy that emphasizes on acceptance and change. The patients are taught how to bypass substance use and come out of drug-seeking behavior thereby treating opioid addiction.
How to prevent an opioid overdose?
Individuals can prevent opioid overdose by - properly monitoring opioid prescriptions, properly disposing of unused opioid medications, and minimizing overuse of prescribed opioid medication.
What are the commonly used opioid drugs?
Some of the commonly used opioid drugs are heroin, codeine, tramadol, methadone, hydrocodone and oxycodone, opium, morphine, fentanyl, and more.
What are the long-term effects of opioid addiction?
Several severe health issues crop with opioid addiction like weakened immune response, hormonal imbalance, gastrointestinal problems, constipation, liver or kidney diseases, sexual dysfunction, and others.