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Opioid Addiction Signs, Symptoms & Prevention

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While there’s no denying that opioids can effectively treat pain, opioid addiction doesn’t discriminate and can affect anyone—even those who take the drug as per their doctor’s instructions.

Because of this, learning about what opioid addiction is, how to recognize it, and how to prevent it is of utmost importance if you or your loved one has been prescribed opioid medication.

This article will cover everything you need to know about opioid addiction, including its causes, risk factors, signs, symptoms, and more.

What Are Opioids?

Opioids are pain-relieving drugs prescribed to alleviate moderate to severe pain, usually when other types of painkillers aren’t effective.

Depending on their origin, opioids can be:

  • Natural, which means they are derived directly from the alkaloids found in the poppy plant (e.g., morphine)
  • Semi-synthetic, which are synthesized in laboratories from natural opioids (e.g., oxycodone)
  • Synthetic, which are fully human-made and thus devoid of natural opioids (e.g., fentanyl)

Although opioids can be used to treat chronic pain, they can be highly addictive. Because of this, they are usually recommended for short-term treatment of acute pain, such as that after surgery.

Opioid Usage in the USA

While it’s difficult to tell how many people in the United States use opioids, it’s safe to say that opioid addiction is an epidemic. Here are some Centers for Disease Control and Prevention statistics to prove it:

  • In 2016, over 2 million Americans suffered from opioid addiction caused by prescription opioids.
  • In 2020, roughly 75% of all deaths resulting from drug overdose involved the use of opioids.
  • In 2021, close to 81,000 Americans died from an opioid overdose.

Opioid Effects

The primary effect of opioids is pain relief. These drugs effectively reduce the sensation of pain by interacting with the brain’s opioid receptors.

Besides alleviating pain, opioids release dopamine and can thus also induce euphoria, deep relaxation, and similar pleasurable feelings. This further increases the risk of opioid abuse and addiction, as our brain wants to repeat actions that stimulate dopamine production. 

Other than that, common effects of opioids include:

  • Constipation
  • Decreased concentration
  • Dizziness
  • Hallucinations
  • Lack of appetite
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Skin rashes and itching
  • Sleep problems
  • Slowed speech

How to Recognize Opioid Addiction

Recognizing opioid addiction is the first—and most important—step to getting the help needed to overcome it.

With that in mind, let’s discuss the causes, risk factors, and signs of opioid addiction.

Opioid Addiction Causes and Risk Factors

Opioid addiction, also known as opioid use disorder (OUD), results from the chemical changes in the brain caused by opioid use.

This means that anyone taking opioids—especially long-term users—risks becoming addicted to them. Still, some people are more susceptible to opioid addiction than others due to certain genetic, environmental, and other factors.

Specifically, the main risk factors for opioid addiction are:

  • Having access to opioids
  • Having a personal or family history of substance abuse
  • Misusing opioids (e.g., using them for a prolonged time, injecting, not following the doctor’s instructions, etc.)
  • Living with a mental illness
  • Taking opioids at a young age

Opioid Addiction Signs & Symptoms

Opioid addiction manifests in various physical, behavioral, psychosocial, and cognitive signs and symptoms.

That said, the main signs of opioid addiction are:

  • Continuing opioid use despite its negative effects on your personal and professional life
  • Experiencing opioid cravings
  • Misusing the medication by taking it longer or in larger doses than prescribed
  • Spending lots of time searching for, using, and recovering from opioids
  • Unsuccessfully trying to quit or control opioid use

Can Opioid Addiction Be Prevented?

Although anyone taking opioids risks developing an opioid addiction, you can minimize this risk by:

  • Taking alternative medication. The most effective way to prevent opioid addiction is to reduce exposure to these drugs. Talk to your doctor to see if any non-opioid medication options could help you manage pain.
  • Use opioids responsibly. Make sure to only take the medication as prescribed by a doctor. Refrain from increasing the dose, frequency, or duration of use without medical supervision. If you experience any side effects, inform your doctor about them.
  • Avoid mixing substances. Never take opioids with alcohol, anxiety medication, muscle relaxants, etc., without consulting your doctor.

Opioid Addiction Treatment

If you are battling opioid addiction, remember it is not your fault. Although overcoming opioid addiction is no easy feat—after all, it’s a brain disease—it is certainly possible to get off opioids for good.

That said, you should never attempt to quit opioid use on your own, as it increases the risk of relapse and overdose. If you want to quit opioid use safely and effectively, it’s in your best interest to seek professional help.

There are numerous opioid addiction treatments available today, ranging from traditional methods—for example, medication-assisted treatment (MAT)—to modern opioid addiction treatments such as Accelerated Neuro-Regulation (ANR). Unlike traditional treatments, ANR treats not only the symptoms but also the biological root cause of opioid addiction.

Key Takeaways

We hope that this article answers all of your questions about opioid addiction.

Now, let’s summarize the key points we covered:

  • Opioids are drugs that can effectively relieve pain, but they can also cause addiction.
  • Opioid addiction is caused by chemical changes in the brain, so people who take opioids for a prolonged period of time are at an increased risk of becoming addicted to them.
  • Opioid addiction can be prevented by reducing exposure to opioids, using opioids exactly as prescribed, and not taking them with other substances.
  • Unlike some other opioid addiction treatments, ANR treats the underlying cause of addiction, which makes it highly effective.

If you or someone you know experiences mental health issues, it is important to seek help from a qualified professional. Our Resource Specialists can help you find expert mental health resources to recover in your community. Contact us now for more information on this free service to our users.

Contact a Resource Specialist

About the Author

Dr. Andre Waismann is the founder of the ANR Clinic and an intensive care medicine physician with over three decades of experience in treating opioid addiction. After pioneering rapid detox, Dr. Waismann developed Accelerated Neuro-Regulation (ANR), an opioid addiction treatment that has helped more than 24,000 people worldwide regain control over their lives.

Photo by Mary Taylor: https://www.pexels.com/photo/pensive-man-in-soft-clothes-on-urban-bridge-6009186/

May Is Mental Health Month 2023

"Look Around, Look Within"

May is Mental Health Month, a time to spread public awareness and education about mental health disorders and reflect on the impact of mental illness on individuals and their families.

The theme of this year's Mental Health Month is to take some time to "Look Around, Look Within." The goal this May is to challenge yourself to examine your world and how it can affect your overall mental health – from your neighborhood to genetics, many factors come into play when it comes to mental health.

It is also a time to recognize and commit to changing the racial and economic inequities in our healthcare system, particularly with respect to mental health.

www.rtor.org and Laurel House are committed to the advancement of racial equity and social justice and to making mental health services accessible to all.

The opinions and views expressed in any guest blog post do not necessarily reflect those of www.rtor.org or its sponsor, Laurel House, Inc. The author and www.rtor.org have no affiliations with any products or services mentioned in the article or linked to therein. Guest Authors may have affiliations to products mentioned or linked to in their author bios.

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