Opiate Addiction Warning Signs & Dangers

The Landing provides opioid addiction treatment for men rooted in a science-based, research-supported clinical model to ensure a healthier, more satisfying life.

Understanding Opioids

Learn about opioid and substance abuse

Opioids are a group of substances that include illicit drugs such as heroin and legal prescription pain medications such as OxyContin, Vicodin, fentanyl, morphine, and codeine. These substances work to depress the central nervous system in a manner that numbs an individual’s ability to experience physical pain while producing feelings of relaxation and wellbeing. These properties make certain opioids helpful to those who struggle with moderate to severe chronic or acute physical pain. However, while these substances can be beneficial to some, they can also be tremendously addictive and can quickly cause individuals to develop patterns of substance abuse. In addition, the euphoric feelings that are produced when opioids are consumed can become highly appealing in ways that cause individuals to begin using them without a medical need to do so. Again, the addictive tendencies of these substances can cause individuals to fall into patterns of drug abuse. Heroin, which is an illicit opioid, is just as addictive as prescription painkillers and can inflict significant damage on an individual’s life when it is abused.

Whenever an individual starts to abuse opioids in a way that impacts his ability to function regularly on a daily basis, it is likely that he has developed opioid use disorder. When this occurs, individuals will often require larger doses of the substance as time goes on and/or will use the drug for much longer than originally intended. The damage that can result from the abuse of opioids can be exceptionally destructive; however, those who are afflicted with opioid use disorder will tend to find that they are incapable of stopping their substance abuse without professional help.


Opioid addiction statistics

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) states that between 26 and 36 million people across the globe abuse opioids. Within the United States alone, NIDA estimates that about 2 million individuals are addicted to opioid-based prescription medications. The American Psychiatric Association (APA) states that the 12-month prevalence of opioid abuse is approximately 0.37% of the adult population and 1.0% of the adolescent population.

Causes & Risk Factors

Causes and risk factors for opioid addiction

The following causes and risk factors may increase an individual’s likelihood of developing opioid use disorder:

Genetic: According to the APA, genetic factors play a major role in increasing an individual’s vulnerability of battling with opioid use disorder. When a family history of opioid use disorder exists, individuals are more susceptible to grapple with similar addiction than those who do not have this type of family history. Additionally, passed-down personality traits and temperamental aspects can add to the desire to abuse substances like opioids.

Environmental: Having an injury that results in pain that is treated with opioids can increase a person’s risk for developing opioid use disorder, as can having easy access to opioids or associating with individuals who abuse opioids.

Risk Factors:

  • Suffering from a medical condition that warrants receiving a prescription for opioid painkillers
  • Family history of opioid abuse and addiction
  • Having easy access to opioid substances
  • Family or personal history of other types of substance abuse and addiction
  • Possessing an impulsive temperament or a novelty-seeking personality
  • Being surrounded by individuals who abuse opioids or other substances

Signs & Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of opioid addiction

The signs and symptoms that might be shown by someone who is abusing opioids will vary from individual to individual, depending on a number of things such as the type of opioid being abused. Some of the numerous symptoms that an individual can exhibit when abusing opioids can include:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Visiting multiple doctors in order to receive multiple painkiller prescriptions
  • Compulsive, prolonged use of opioids
  • Slurred speech
  • Engaging in drug-related crimes
  • Demonstrating a declined performance in work or at school
  • No longer fulfilling obligations at home
  • No longer taking part in activities that were previously enjoyed or deemed important
  • Withdrawing from family and friends
  • Using opioids in situations that are hazardous, such as driving while impaired

Physical symptoms:

  • Psychomotor agitation
  • Insomnia
  • Pupillary constriction
  • Drowsiness
  • Psychomotor retardation

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Suicidal ideation
  • Impaired judgment
  • Cravings for continued opioid use
  • Attention and concentration difficulties
  • Memory impairment


Effects of opioid addiction

The abuse of opioids can bring about a number of dangerous effects, which can include the following:

  • Academic or occupational failure
  • Homelessness
  • Financial instability
  • Legal problems due to engaging in criminal behavior
  • Heightened risk for suicide attempts and completed suicides
  • Suffering from anoxia, or a deficiency in the amount of oxygen reaching the body’s tissues
  • Dry mouth and nose
  • Slowing of gastrointestinal activity/constipation
  • Impaired visual acuity
  • Track marks or sclerosed veins in individuals who inject the drug
  • Increased risk for contracting infections like HIV/AIDS or hepatitis C
  • Relationship disturbances/marital strife/familial discord

Co-Occurring Disorders

Opioid addiction and co-occurring disorders

Those who battle with an opioid addiction often struggle with symptoms of other mental illnesses, too. Some of the many co-occurring disorders that can occur along side opioid use disorder include:

  • Alcohol use disorder
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Stimulant use disorder
  • Persistent depressive disorder
  • Major depressive disorder
  • Other substance use disorders

Withdrawal & Overdose

Effects of opioid withdrawal and overdose

Effects of opioid withdrawal: When individuals have developed a pattern of opioid abuse but then attempt to end their use suddenly or cease the amount of opioids they are consuming, they will experience uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. Some of the signs and effects of withdrawal can include:

  • Muscle aches
  • Diarrhea
  • Sweating
  • Fever
  • Pupil dilation
  • Dysphoric mood (feeling in a constant state of unease)
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Insomnia
  • Excessive yawning
  • Uncontrollable flowing of tears

Effects of opioid overdose: When opioids are taken to an extent where the user’s body becomes unable to handle it, he will have placed himself at risk for overdose, which can be life ending. When opioids are chronically abused, users develop tolerance, which means that they must continue to take more of the substance in order to achieve the same effects. This places individuals at an increased risk for overdosing. Signs that could serve as warnings for a potential overdose can include the following:

  • Extreme confusion
  • Significantly slurred speech
  • Headache
  • Cold, clammy skin
  • Severe dizziness
  • Sudden sleepiness
  • Seizures
  • Shallow or labored breathing

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I had no idea that opioids were addictive until it was too late. It was only through the addiction treatment at The Landing that I was able to get sober.

– Anonymous Client
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