Opiate Addiction Symptoms – Detecting Drug Abuse in Someone You Care About

Opiates are a group of drugs that are used medically to treat pain. This drug can have the potential to be highly abused by the people who are prescribed it. For example, these include drugs such as opium, morphine, heroin, and codeine. In addition, an opiate is a depressant and produces a euphoric affect on the user. Most users of the drug will become dependent with continued use of the drug. If the user becomes addicted then the main focus of life becomes getting high. Furthermore, this article will focus on determining opiate addiction symptoms in potential users.

The physical symptoms of opiates depend on the type, dosage and the method used to take the drug. Opiates tend to slow down the body with continued use. It can slow down the heart, breathing and brain activity. In addition, the drug can reduce appetite, sexual desire and thirst. Most people that use opiates gain a tolerance for pain. As well as, the dangers of using opiates increase when the drug is used with other drugs. A further complication is that using the drug with needles that are not sterile can lead to catching hepatitis, HIV or tetanus. If the person becomes a regular opiate user then the person will experience some withdrawal symptoms within four to five hours. Some of the symptoms are sweating, chills, irritability, uneasiness and stomach cramps.

Many pregnant women who are addicted to opiates are at high risk for a spontaneous abortion. In addition, the pregnancy can result in still born, miscarriage issues, premature births and breech deliveries. Many babies that are born addicted to opiates will share opiate addiction symptoms similar to adults. Also, the babies can experience withdrawal symptoms from a few weeks to months. Another problem is that babies born to opiate addicted mothers are at high risk for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

Many heroin addicts tend to keep odd objects lying around the house. For example, a bent spoon, bottle caps, dirty syringes and eye droppers are some of the items used to prepare the drug for injection or smoking. Another sign of drug users is a person with a red,raw nostril from sniffing drugs. One of the more telltale signs are track marks on the body from injecting the drug with a needle. Many users have dilated or constricted eyes from drug use, if a person doesn’t have immediate access to the drug then he will experience withdrawal symptoms such as excessive sweating, chills, shaking and vomiting.

Opiates are a very addictive drug and will require the help of a treatment center to overcome the addiction. In addition, the treatment of choice will depend on the type of opiates and the severity of the addiction. There are different types of drug treatment such outpatient drug counseling and inpatient drug rehab counseling. Addiction symptoms can be hard to detect in some people due to the lengths taken to cover up the problem, but having a serious talk with person can reveal the truth.

What is Opioid Addiction?

To first understand opioid addiction, you must first understand what opioids are. The term opioid refers to any drug or chemical that attaches (like a key fits into a lock) to sites in the brain called opioid receptors. The human body makes its own opioids (called endorphins) but the opioids we are concerned with when we talk about opioid addiction are those that are manufactured in a laboratory or made by plants. For instance, morphine and codeine are found in the extract (the opium) of seeds from the poppy plant, and this opium is processed into heroin. Most prescription painkillers like oxycodone, hydrocodone, and hydromorphone are synthesized in the laboratory. When a person becomes dependent upon these drugs, they need opioid addiction treatment.

What are Common Types of Opioids?

Opioids may be prescribed legally by doctors (for pain, cough suppression or opioid dependence) or they may be taken illegally for their mood-altering effects–euphoria, sedation, “to feel better”, or for some, opioids are taken “just to feel normal”. Not everyone who takes an opioid is at risk for dependence requiring opioid addiction treatment, but these drugs are commonly abused.

Examples of prescribed medications that sometimes lead to opioid addiction, but that can also help patients battle other types of substance abuse include:

  • Codeine–the opioid in Tylenol #3, Fiorinal or Fiorecet #3, and in some cough syrups.
  • Hydrocodone–the opioid in Vicodin, Lortab, and Lorcet.
  • Oxycodone–the opioid in Percodan, Percocet and OxyContin.
  • Hydromorphone–the opioid in Dilaudid.
  • Oxymorphone–the opioid in Opana.
  • Meperidine–the opioid in Demerol.
  • Morphine–the opioid in MS Contin, Kadian and MSIR.
  • Fentanyl–the opioid in Duragesic.
  • Tramadol–the opioid in Ultram.
  • Methadone–the opioid in Dolophine.
  • Buprenorphine–the opioid in Suboxone.

Although not entirely accurate, the terms opiate and narcotic are generally used interchangeably with the term opioid.

The great majority of illicitly used prescription opioids are not obtained from drug dealers. Family and friends are now the greatest source of illicit prescription opioids, and the majority of these opioids are obtained from one physician–not from “doctor shopping”. More than 90% of the world’s opium and heroin supply comes from Afghanistan and Southeast Asia. ‘Black tar’ heroin comes primarily from Mexico. Opioids are the most powerful known pain relievers, sometimes leading to opioid addiction requiring treatment. The use and abuse of opioids dates back to antiquity. The pain relieving and euphoric effects of opioids were known to Sumerians (4000 B.C.) and Egyptians (2000 B.C.).

What Happens When an Opioid is Taken?

When an opioid is taken into the body by any route (by mouth, nasally, smoking or injecting) it enters the blood stream and travels to the brain. When it attaches to an opioid receptor in the brain, our perception of pain is reduced (if we have pain) and we feel sedated. Most people also feel at least a mild pleasurable sensation, or a sense of well-being when opioid receptors are stimulated. Some report feeling more energized or motivated after taking opioids. A few experience unpleasant side effects such as nausea, vomiting or irritability. Unfortunately, those who are prone to develop an opioid addiction seem to experience an intense euphoric or pleasurable feeling when they take an opioid – leading to prolonged dependence requiring opioid addiction treatment.

An opioid seems to do something for their mood that it does not do for most people. Their experience with an opioid is quite different than it is for the person who is not prone to develop an opioid addiction. Drugs of abuse (like opioids, cocaine and alcohol) are addictive for the susceptible person because repeated use of those substances–in an effort to reproduce that intense euphoric feeling–results in long-term changes in the structure and the function of the brain. These changes in the brain start to drive their behavior, and when someone is suffering from opioid addiction, they want the drug even when the drug no longer provides pleasure.

Opioids that can be snorted, inhaled or injected reach the brain in a high concentration rapidly and result in an even more intense high, or a “rush”. As a result, drugs that can be abused by these routes are often more appealing to the person seeking euphoria, and are therefore more addictive for the susceptible person.

What is Opioid Dependence? Is it the Same as Opioid Addiction?

Yes – opioid dependence and opioid addiction mean the same thing. Opioid dependence is a disease affecting the brain that involves both a physical and a psychological need for an opioid, and requires opioid addiction treatment. An individual is considered “dependent” or “addicted” when he or she exhibits this behavior–compulsive use despite obvious harm. The addicted person can’t seem to stop using opioids even when it is obvious to himself or herself and others that he or she should stop. The two major signs of opioid addiction are cravings–an intense and overwhelming desire for a drug–and a loss of control–it becomes harder and harder to say no to using a drug, or controlling the amount used, and thus use becomes compulsive. Behaviors which signal a need for opioid addiction treatment include:

  • Denial that a problem exists, or minimizing the severity of the problem.
  • Impaired control over use–using more than planned.
  • A lot of time is spent obtaining, using or recovering from using opioids.
  • Important obligations like school, work, or childcare are reduced for the sake of use.
  • Multiple prior unsuccessful attempts to quit, or a persistent desire to quit.
  • Continued use despite obvious harm to one’s health, job, finances or family.

What is Physical Dependence?

A person is said to have “physical dependence” on opioids if they have high “tolerance”, meaning more of the substance is needed to get the same effect, and they get withdrawal symptoms if the substance is stopped. Most patients who seek opioid addiction treatment also have some degree of physical dependence. However, physical dependence alone is not sufficient to make a diagnosis of addiction. A person can be physically dependent–such as a cancer patient might be who is prescribed opioids for severe pain–and not be addicted. Again, addiction refers to certain behaviors.

Patients who are being treated for chronic pain can develop what we call “pseudo addiction“. They may start to exhibit some of the same behaviors we see with addiction when they don’t get adequate pain relief. When their pain is controlled, the behaviors that we associate with opioid addiction disappear. They do not need opioid addiction treatment. They need better pain management.

Opiate Addiction Symptoms and Signs

Opiate addiction is an insidious problem that has plagued society for centuries, but perhaps never more so than today. A two-edged sword, opiates can heal or destroy.

An opiate is any drug derived from the opium poppy plant. The main opiates are morphine, heroin, and codeine.

Thebaine and papaverine are also opiates. More commonly we see opiates in their synthetic forms: oxycodone (OxyContin, Percodan), hydrocodone (Vicodin), and hydromorphone (Dilaudid). Darvon, Demerol, and Methadone are other synthetic opiates. The majority of these drugs are used medically for pain management.

Opiates are particularly effective in suppressing pain and reducing anxiety. In sufficiently high doses, they can produce a euphoric state. For this reason, they are often used as recreational drugs. Psychological and physical dependence leading to addiction is common in frequent opiate users. The body quickly adjusts to the use of opiates such that increasingly larger doses are needed to produce the same euphoric effect. Overdosing, sometimes resulting in fatal respiratory failure, occurs when addicts take more than their body can handle.

Most opiates can be swallowed, snorted, smoked, or injected. Intravenous injection is the preferred method of longtime addicts as this method produces the quickest, most intense high. It is also a method accompanied by increased risk of infectious disease.

Physically, the effects of opiates include dry mouth; muscle spasticity; slow, shallow or labored breathing; pupil dilation; stomach and intestinal spasms; constipation; low blood pressure; and diminished mental capacity, drowsiness, and disorientation. A common behavior of the opiate addict is the nodding in and out of consciousness.

Opiate addicts are emotionally detached. Thus, dependents of addicts are often neglected and sometimes abused.

Addicts have a difficult time reporting regularly to jobs and even keeping them. Since they cannot function without the drug, looking for it, paying for it, using it, and enjoying its effects become first and foremost in their priority.

Other needs are a poor second. Since funds are usually not commensurate to the need and desire, stealing and other criminal behavior are often parts of the addict’s lifestyle.

Withdrawal from addiction to opiates can include hot and cold flashes, goose bumps, extreme restlessness, anxiety, muscle spasms, tremors, muscle and bone ache, insomnia, diarrhea, and vomiting.

Fortunately, there are many opiate dependency treatment programs available. Before anything else, detoxification is needed. In the opiate addiction detox center, a longtime user can begin the process of eliminating the toxins from one’s body in a regulated environment where medical practitioners are available to monitor any adverse effects of withdrawal.

Some opiate addiction rehab centers administer medications such as methadone or buprenorphine to ease the pain of withdrawal. After the physical cleansing, the tough work of self-transformation begins. Opiate addiction rehabs offer counseling and behavior modification strategies and techniques to enable the recovering patient to sustain a drug-free lifestyle long after he’s left the opiate addiction rehab center.

Through counseling sessions, the patient discovers the emotional and environmental factors that trigger his cravings, and he learns how to avoid these or control them. Realizing that the treatment for opiate dependency is far from over, even when the rehabilitated opiate addict returns to society, opiate addiction treatment centers connect him to support groups and family outreach programs to assist him and his family in rebuilding their lives.