Signs and Symptoms of Opioid Dependence
Opioids are highly addictive, and opioid abuse has become a national crisis in the United States. Statistics highlight the severity of the epidemic, with the National Institute on Drug Abuse reporting that more than 2 million Americans abuse opioids and that more than 90 Americans die by opioid overdose every day, on average.
Why do people become addicted to opioids?
Opioids can make your brain and body believe the drug is necessary for survival. As you learn to tolerate the dose you’ve been prescribed, you may find that you need even more medication to relieve the pain or achieve well-being, which can lead to dependency. Addiction takes hold of our brains in several ways — and is far more complex and less forgiving than many people realize.
When opioids are abused, the route of intended administration is often altered. For example, when prescription pain pills are ground up, the powder can be snorted, smoked, or mixed with water and injected. These methods increase the speed of absorption, creating a “rush” or a strong, fast acting effect of positive sensations. Even when taken as prescribed, the potential for opioid abuse and addiction is high and treatment may be required.
It’s important to recognize the signs and symptoms of opioid addiction. If you notice any of these symptoms in family or friends, help is available.
Impact of opioid abuse in your body
Substance use disorders are associated with a wide range of short- and long-term health effects. They can vary depending on the type of drug, how much and how often it’s taken and the person’s general health. Overall, the effects of drug abuse and dependence can be far-reaching. They can impact almost every organ in the human body.
Side effects of opioid abuse may include:
- A weakened immune system, increasing the risk of illness and infection
- Heart conditions ranging from abnormal heart rates to heart attacks and collapsed veins and blood vessel infections from injected drugs
- Nausea and abdominal pain, which can also lead to changes in appetite and weight loss
- Increased strain on the liver, which puts the person at risk of significant liver damage or liver failure
- Seizures, stroke, mental confusion and brain damage
- Lung disease
- Problems with memory, attention and decision-making, which make daily living more difficult
- Global effects of drugs on the body, such as breast development in men and increases in body temperature, which can lead to other health problems
Signs and symptoms of opioid addiction
There are a number of symptoms that may be present in individuals suffering from opiate addiction. Those symptoms may include:
- Lack of motivation
- Depressed mood
- Weight loss
- Itchy skin
- Joint and muscle pain
- Nausea and vomiting
- Loss of concentration or interest
- Confusion or disorientation
- Mood swings or extreme behavior changes
- Distorted perception of reality
- Withdrawn socially
- Slowed or slurred speech
- Diminished coordination
- Loss of interest in activities once enjoyed
- Stealing from loved ones or other illegal activities