Opiate Symptoms & Effects

Understanding Opiates Addiction

Learn About Opiates Addiction

Opioids are a class of drugs that are either directly derived from, or are chemically similar to, substances found in the opium poppy plant. This class of drugs includes substances such as morphine, codeine, OxyContin, and Vicodin, among others, and are generally prescribed in a medical setting for their pain-relieving effects. Heroin, also an opioid, is an illicit substance that can quickly trap a person in the vicious cycle of substance abuse. All opioids have the potential for addiction, but legal opioid medications are carefully monitored by physicians, minimizing the chances for addiction. In contrast, illegal opioids like heroin are generally unsafe no matter what the dose. When used recreationally, opioids produce powerful euphoric feelings. Before long, a person who uses opioids can find his or her life spiraling out of control as he or she invests a great deal of time and energy into chasing the next high.

An opioid addiction can be a powerful opponent, but with expert, compassionate treatment, it is possible to overcome an addiction to these drugs.


Opiates Addiction Statistics

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that approximately 35 million people worldwide abuse opioids each year. In the United States, data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NS-DUH) found that 20 million people abuse an opioid at least once throughout their lives and two million have done so within the past year. With regards to heroin specifically, about 650,000 Americans have used it within the past year. Heroin is also a powerfully addictive drug: Nearly one quarter of people who abuse heroin become addicted to it.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and Risk Factors for Opiates Addiction

A person’s chances of becoming addicted to opioids are influenced by a combination of genetic and environmental factors, including:

Genetic: A sizable body of research involving families, twins, and adopted children indicates a genetic link to opioid addiction. People whose parents or siblings struggle with addiction are up to three times more likely to become addicted to substances than are people whose family members do not struggle with substance abuse.

Environmental: Genetics help determine whether or not a person is inherently more vulnerable to addiction, but one’s environment can influence whether or not an addiction develops as well. People who grow up in households with readily-available opioids are more likely to develop an addiction, as are those who experience traumatic events or live under severe chronic stress. In addition, despite careful controls by physicians, people who are prescribed opioid medications are also at an increased risk of developing an opioid addiction.

Risk Factors:

  • Family history of mental illness or substance abuse
  • Personal history of mental illness or substance abuse
  • Being able to easily acquire opioid medication(s)
  • Sustaining an injury resulting in severe pain
  • Poor coping skills
  • Personal history of physical, emotional, or sexual abuse
  • Experiencing violence or other traumatic event(s)
  • Pressure from one’s social environment

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and Symptoms of Opiates Addiction

Signs and symptoms of opioid abuse depend on a number of factors, such as the length and severity of abuse, the specific drug being abused, and one’s personality. Some of these various signs and symptoms may include:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Stealing money or others’ medications
  • Deceptiveness or defensiveness about one’s activities or whereabouts
  • “Doctor shopping,” or visiting multiple physicians in an attempt to secure multiple prescriptions
  • Unexplained absences from work
  • Declining performance at work

Physical symptoms:

  • Poor hygiene
  • Slowed reflexes
  • Pupil dilation
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Sores, wounds, bruising, or puncture marks from needle use
  • Weight loss
  • Poor coordination or motor skills
  • Excessive yawning

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Poor problem-solving skills
  • Memory difficulties
  • Paranoia
  • Feeling detached from one’s surroundings
  • Poor judgment

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Withdrawal from family or friends
  • Changes in one’s social circle
  • Anger or irritability
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
If you feel that you are in crisis, or are having


Effects of Opiates Addiction

When left untreated, opioid abuse can produce an array of negative consequences in a person’s life, possibly including:

  • Social isolation
  • Onset or worsening of mental health concerns
  • Strained, damaged, or broken relationships
  • Loss of child custody
  • Mental health problems
  • Poor work performance
  • Being fired from work
  • Financial trouble
  • Weakened immune system
  • Contracting infections such as HIV or hepatitis
  • Death, either from suicide or overdose

Co-Occurring Disorders

Opiates Addiction and Co-Occurring Disorders

People who struggle with opioid abuse unfortunately sometimes can struggle with other co-occurring mental health conditions, including:

  • Other substance use disorders
  • Antisocial personality disorder
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Depressive disorders
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder

Withdrawal & Overdose

Opiates Addiction Withdrawal & Overdose

Effects of opioid withdrawal: When a person attempts to stop using opioids after a long period of use, he or she may experience some of the following negative and uncomfortable effects, which are indicative of opioid withdrawal:

  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Muscle cramps, spasms, or twitching
  • Intense cravings for opioids
  • Watery eyes
  • Runny nose
  • Sweating
  • Poor appetite
  • Irritability or agitation
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Restlessness or anxiety

Effects of opioid overdose: If a person takes more of a drug than his or her body can safely metabolize or excrete, that person is likely to suffer from an overdose. If someone who is using opioids experiences the following effects, he or she is in need of immediate medical attention in order to prevent a grave outcome:

  • Shallow or slow heartbeat
  • Constricted pupils
  • Lack of responsiveness to external stimuli
  • Bluish tint to lips and extremities
  • Cold or clammy skin
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Coma
  • Seizure
  • Stroke

After being prescribed opiates to treat my pain after a surgery, I got hooked on them and kept on seeking out prescriptions. Once I realized it severely impacted my personal life, I got treatment at Twelve Oaks and broke free from my opiate addiction for good.

– Ron R.