According to recent data from the National Institute of Health, opioid use disorders affect more than 2 million people in the United States and lead to more than 120,000 deaths worldwide each year.1 Since 1999, the number of deaths from all forms of opioids has increased by more than six times.2 Of the nearly 50,000 opioid overdose deaths in 2019, about 73% were from synthetic opioids.
For these reasons, it is essential to know the dangers and signs of opioid addiction to prevent serious harm in yourself or someone you love. Additionally, it is vital to know where you find help for opioid addiction.
Types of Opioids
The most common types of opioids include:
- Natural opiates, such as morphine and codeine.
- Semi-synthetic opioids, such as heroin.
- Synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl.
However, this list does not include all the specific opioid drug names. For surgery recovery, some forms of chronic pain and injuries, physicians may prescribe natural opiates or synthetic opioids. Fentanyl is one of the most dangerous and potent synthetic opioids today.
What Is Opioid Misuse?
When people misuse opioids, they usually do it in one of three ways.3 These include:
- Taking a prescription opioid longer than prescribed or in higher doses.
- Consuming another person’s prescription opioids.
- Using an opioid substance for the “high” it causes.
Dangers of Opioid Misuse and Prolonged Use
The common dangers of prolonged use and misuse include:
- Opioid Overdose
It is critical to understand the differences between tolerance, dependence, and addiction. They are terms that people commonly confuse. These can all result from opioid misuse. Tolerance happens when a person’s body no longer responds to opioids in the same way, and the individual must take more of the substance to feel the desired effects. If a person experiences withdrawal symptoms after stopping an opioid, that is a sign of dependence. People often become dependent when they take an opioid for an extended period.
Addiction differs from dependence and tolerance. It is a disease of the brain that comes from misuse or prolonged use of opioids. When a person becomes addicted, the individual cannot stop using opioids, despite adverse effects, because of chemical changes in the brain.4 For example, a person may lose a job and experience financial hardship because of opioid addiction and may be unable to stop.
An overdose happens when a person takes too large of a dose. It can be intentional. However, many people unintentionally overdose when they take a higher amount because of tolerance to an opioid. An overdose can often be fatal because of the severe respiratory depression that opioids cause. Today, many states allow easier access to naloxone that people can keep at home if they take opioids or care for a family member who does. Naloxone reverses the effects of opioids quickly and can save a person’s life. Learn how to recognize someone overdosing on opioids.
Recognizing the Signs of Opioid Addiction
If you’re looking for signs of opioid addiction in yourself or a loved one, there are both physical and behavioral changes to look out for.
These are some of the most common physical signs that a person may have an opioid addiction:
- Uncontrollable cravings for the substance.
- Prolonged sleepiness.
- Changes in usual sleeping habits.
- Weight loss from sleeping more and eating less or weight gain from eating more and exercising less.
- Decrease in libido or sexual performance.
- Frequently experiencing flu-like symptoms.
These are some of the most common behavior-related signs of opioid addiction:
- Isolation from friends and family.
- Decreased interest in work, school, or other obligations.
- Poorer performance at work, school, or sports.
- Stealing from work, friends, or family.
- Secretive behavior and increased moodiness.
- Defensiveness when confronted about a potential misuse problem.
- An inability to control the use of opioids.
- New financial or legal troubles.
- Unusual or recent changes in personal hygiene habits.
If You See Signs of Opioid Addiction in a Loved One
A person may develop an addiction because of surgery recovery complications, chronic pain, or other issues when they have a prescription for opioids. Others may misappropriate a prescription from a family member or friend to use for its physical effects.
People often turn to opioids because of depression, anxiety, or another underlying mental health issue. When this happens, it can be tough to reach out for help if the opioids help reduce unpleasant symptoms of a mental health disorder.
At Ocean Hills Recovery, we offer inpatient and outpatient addiction treatment programs. Our team customizes treatment plans to fit each person’s unique needs. Also, we provide dual diagnosis treatment for people with co-occurring mental health disorders to treat addiction and mental health conditions simultaneously.
To learn more about recognizing signs of opioid addiction and finding treatment solutions, please contact us.
About the author:
Greg opened his home and heart to alcoholics and addicts in 2003. He is a Certified Addictions Treatment Counselor (CATCI). Starting in 2009 Greg has fostered the growth of Ocean Hills Recovery into one of the most respected and effective treatment centers in the area and has been working with people with addictions since March of 2001. Greg believes in a holistic approach to recovery. His focus is on drug alcohol addiction treatment with a combination of 12 Step work, therapy and counseling, and the rejuvenation of the body through healthful eating and exercise. He has designed his program to foster a family-like atmosphere and believes that people in recovery are just beginning their lives. He encourages the people he works with to learn to enjoy life in sobriety. Greg is married to Nicole; they have two adorable sons together and an energetic yellow Labrador Retriever.