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 youâve 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 â and is far more complex and less forgiving than many people realize.
Learn About Opioid Addiction
Opioids are a category of potentially dangerous and highly addictive substances. Examples of opioids include morphine, heroin, oxycodone , hydrocodone , and fentanyl.
Many opioids have legitimate medical uses, primarily related to pain management. However, all opioid use can put a person at risk for addiction and overdose.
The clinical term for opioid addiction is opioid use disorder. Opioid addiction is also sometimes referred to as opioid dependence. In addition to a powerful compulsion to use opioids, opioid addiction is also characterized by tolerance and withdrawal.
Tolerance means that a person who has become addicted to an opioid will need to use the drug with increasing frequency or in larger amounts in order to experience the desired effects. Withdrawal means that when a person tries to stop using opioids, they will develop painful physical and psychological symptoms.
It can be extremely difficult to overcome the urge to use opioids. However, when you receive effective personalized care from a reputable provider, you can achieve successful long-term recovery.
Physical Opioid Addiction Symptoms
The physical signs of opioid use vary depending on the type of opioid used. IV heroin use, for instance, has different physical effects than taking pills. Also, crushing and snorting pills have different effects than swallowing pills. The following are a few signs and symptoms common to all or most opioids.
Short-term physical signs of opioid addiction include:
Long-term mental and emotional signs of opioid addiction:
- Developing tolerance, meaning they need more of the drug to achieve the same feeling
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Causes & Risk Factors Of Opioid Addiction
Understanding the reasons for an individual persons opioid addiction is not simple, though researchers agree that both genetic and environmental factors work together to determine a persons risk. The following are some common causes and risk factors for an opioid use disorder:
Genetic: A fairly robust body of research suggests that genetics and heredity influence a persons chance of developing an opioid addiction. Studies on families, adopted children, and twins suggest that genes play a role in determining someones risk for developing a substance use disorder. The risk of developing a substance use disorder increases threefold when ones parents or siblings have substance use disorders.
Environmental: Not all people who are genetically vulnerable to an opioid addiction actually develop one. As such, a persons environment also plays a role. Children who experience abuse or neglect, as well as those who grow up in homes with family members who abuse drugs, are more likely to abuse drugs themselves. In addition, exposure to severe chronic stress, such as poverty, unemployment, violence, or abuse, can increase a persons risk of turning to opioids. Unfortunately, being prescribed opioids for chronic pain or a severe injury can also increase a persons risk of abusing them.
Growing More Drowsy Distant And Detached
The person frequently appears drowsy and distant to the outside world, becoming detached from family or friends. When you look into their eyes, something seems off. They lack awareness of the people and things around them, are inattentive, and are no longer interested in doing their usual hobbies.
They also go on the nod, or falling asleep, drifting in and out of consciousness any time of the day and taking more naps than usual. Their personality is different, and they have trouble making decisions.
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How Can You Know Someone Has Overdosed
If you suspect that someone is experiencing an opioid overdose, there are several signs to look out for. An overdose may occur after snorting, swallowing, or injecting a drug such as heroin or oxycodone. Symptoms of an opioid overdose include:
â Shallow breathing or slow and erratic breathingâ Loss of consciousnessâ Bluish tint to lips, tongue, and fingertipsâ Pinpoint pupils in the eyesâ Choking sounds or gurgling noise
It is vital to seek help if you suspect an overdose has occurred. First, call 911 immediately and then consider administering naloxone if available. The quicker a person receives medical attention for an opioid overdose, the better their chances of survival.
Signs Of A Fentanyl Overdose
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Doctors can prescribe the medication to treat pain, but its potency means it can be dangerous if taken incorrectly. Additionally, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency reports that illicit drug networks are mass-producing counterfeit pills containing fentanylâand taking even one of these pills can result in deadly overdose. So how can you protect yourself and your loved ones from an accidental fentanyl overdose? Here are three key signs to look for.
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Deteriorating Mentally On A Wide Scale
Drug addiction causes a loss of memory, reasoning, and other mental functioning.
Is your loved one no longer alert or aware of important matters? Do things seem oblivious to him or her or does it seem like he or she is in a constant haze? Opiate addiction can cause mental deterioration as the user becomes more dependent on thought processes associated with finding the next dose of opiates and getting high and less dependent on priority thoughts that really matter.
The deterioration in cognitive abilities of someone who is addicted to drugs is so strong, in fact, that the US National Library of Medicine describes addiction as a disorder of altered cognition. In addition to the dominance of drug-seeking behaviors over an individuals thought process, the memory, attention, reasoning, and impulse control of drug addicted individuals are all likely to be impaired to some degree. Sometimes these changes are hard to detect in someone else, but can be recognized by the individual in question themself.
Symptoms Of Opioid Use Disorder
OUD is characterized by symptoms such as the following.
Physical dependence: This is a physiological change that occurs when using a substance. When the person stops taking the drug, they experience withdrawal symptoms such as cravings and sweating. It is important to understand that a person can be physically dependent on opioids without unhealthy use. For example, a patient with cancer who has chronic pain may be physically dependent on opioids but not addicted to them.
Increasingly heavy, frequent, unhealthy or risky use: The person continues to use an opioid even though it causes problems with health, safety, financial security or personal relationships. A person with an opioid use disorder is unable to control the use of opioids, and behaviors associated with getting and using opioids increasingly interfere with daily life.
Cravings: These are overwhelming physical and emotional urges to take the drug, despite an understanding of potential consequences to well-being.
Other signs of an opioid use disorder: Someone struggling with an opioid use disorder may not show signs right away. Over time, there may be some signals that the person needs help, such as:
- Isolation from family members or friends
- Stealing from family members, friends or businesses
- New financial difficulties
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What Are Opioid Withdrawal Symptoms And How Can You Alleviate Them
Opioid withdrawal symptoms can but wonât necessarily include some of the following:
Opioid withdrawal symptoms generally last between three and five days, although they can last up to 10 days, according to the American Society of Addiction Medicine .
Withdrawal from opioids can be difficult and even dangerous. Trying to quit âcold turkeyâ is not recommended, ASAM advises, because it can lead to stronger cravings and continued use. The safest way to alleviate opioid withdrawal symptoms is through medically supervised treatment that generally includes medicines, counseling, and support. Some medications used to relieve withdrawal symptoms are methadone and buprenorphine . These medications can also be used as long-term maintenance medicine for opioid dependence. In addition, a medication called clonidine can be used during withdrawal to help reduce anxiety, agitation, muscle aches, sweating, runny nose, and cramping. It does not help reduce cravings. The addiction medicine physician may also prescribe medication to treat vomiting and diarrhea and help with insomnia.
Why Seniors Are At Risk
It could be due in part to how often doctors prescribe opioids to senior citizens.
From 1996 to 2010, there was a significant increase in the number of opioid prescriptions given to older people, according to a 2018 article in the Psychiatric Times entitled âOpioid Use in the Elderly.â The report also says that 35% of people over 50 years old who had ongoing pain said theyâd misused their prescription opioids in the past month. Misusing certain prescription drugsâwhich means not following your doctorâs instructions on how to safely take themâcan raise your risk for addiction, according to a 2020 article from MedlinePlus entitled âPrescription Drug Misuse.â
A 2020 study in the CDCâs Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report found that between 2008 and 2018, opioid prescription fill rates were highest among people 65 and older. Whatâs more, a 2018 report from the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality found that on average, almost 4 million senior citizens filled four or more opioid prescriptions in 2015 and 2016. Close to 10 million filled at least one during that timespan.
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Signs And Symptoms Of Opioid Abuse
If you are concerned that someone you care about is misusing opioids, there are some signs to watch for. Symptoms of opioid abuse include:4, 8, 17
- Change in eating and sleeping habits.
- Finishing a prescription early.
- Having trouble completing usual tasks at home, school, or work.
- Isolating or changing friends.
- Showing signs of intoxication, including constricted pupils, slurring, or nodding off.
- Stealing money, medications, or valuables.
- Taking more medication than prescribed, or for longer than prescribed.
- Using prescribed medications in a different way than prescribed.
- Visiting more than one doctor for prescriptions, going to urgent care or the hospital for extra medication, or getting illegal drugs.
Signs Of Opioid Addiction
Opioids are a class of drugs that include illegal drugs like heroin and legal prescription opioid painkillers. Natural opioids like morphine and heroin come from the opium poppy plant, while synthetic opioids like methadone are made in the lab.
These drugs are highly addictive, making opioid abuse a national crisis in the U.S. Although medical opioids help manage chronic pain, they produce a euphoric feeling. They can also lead to dependence and opiate addiction after prolonged use.
All opioids activate the reward circuits in the brain, mimicking brain chemicals associated with pleasure. Continued opiate abuse can lead to cravings for the pleasurable feelings caused by the drugs. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports over 2 million Americans to abuse opioids. According to the CDC, approximately 75% of American drug overdose fatalities in 2020 involved an opioid.
Luckily, Pathfinders Recovery Centers offer help for those with opioid addiction and opiate abuse. Keep reading to learn the signs of opioid use disorders and addiction.
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Physical Signs And Symptoms
Physical symptoms of opiate addiction are most noticeable after a person has taken opioids recently. However, the negative consequences of long-term opiate use include:
- Fatigue and sedation.
- Antisocial personality disorder.
At Pathfinders, we offer dual diagnosis treatment for co-occurring disorders at our recovery and treatment centers.
Risk Factors For Opioid Addiction
Several risk factors may make a person more susceptible to an opioid use disorder.
These may include:
Numerous factors can contribute to opioid use disorder. These include:
Experiencing childhood neglect or abuse or living in poverty or a rural place are factors that have been associated with opioid addiction. Having easy access to opioids is another factor, as are certain personality traits like being impulsive or sensation-seeking.
Variations in certain genes are also believed to play a role in addiction.
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Addiction Tolerance And Dependence
Being addicted is not the same as being dependent or having a tolerance. Addiction refers to a condition that can be caused by taking drugs repeatedly.
If a person is dependent on opioids, they experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop taking them. Those who take opioids every day can become dependent. If they need to stop taking opioids, they must do so gradually. Being dependent does not necessarily equate to having an addiction.
Tolerance refers to a person not reacting in the same way to opioids as they initially did. This may mean they need more opioids to achieve the same effect. This can cause people to seek more opioids.
Feelings Of Dizziness Or Confusion
âExperiencing any feelings of dizziness or general confusion can be another sign of overdose,â Kowal says.
Fentanyl can be taken in different forms, depending on the prescription and scenario.
âFentanyl can be legally manufactured in an injectable form, a patch, or to be taken by mouth,â Kowal says.
If you were prescribed fentanyl in a patch form, Mayo Clinic reports that there are several special precautions you can take to prevent overdose. For example:
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Why Is Opioid Addiction A Problem
Well address the first question: What makes opioids addictive? Opioids are a class of painkillers. Because most opioids also produce feelings of euphoria, theyre also used for recreational purposes. As a result, people who take prescription opioids can become addicted. An addiction is when someone compulsively seeks out and uses opioid drugs despite negative consequences.
Opioids can cause serious health problems, including overdose, brain damage, and severe withdrawal symptoms. The consequences are even worse when used with other drugs, making them complicated to treat. However, you can get help in any rehabilitation center by getting opioid addiction treatment.
Learn More About Opioid Addiction
Opiates or opioids, are a group of narcotics that are a derivative of opium and produce a sedative effect when taken. These substances work by depressing the central nervous system and are commonly used to reduce pain or to aid in helping people fall asleep. While some opiates are prescribed by doctors to help treat legitimate pain-related ailments, their effects can lead some people to become addicted. Opiates create a sense of euphoria and well-being, which can be extremely appealing to many individuals. The more often an individual uses opiates, the higher his or her tolerance becomes, causing him or her to need to take higher doses in order to feel the high that was initially obtained. While addiction to opiates is a serious matter, with the right treatment and support individuals can overcome their addiction and go on to lead successful lives.
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Other Signs Of An Opioid Addiction
Opioid addiction can present differently in different individuals, and no two cases are necessarily the same. Some signs may be abundantly present in one individual and difficult to discern in another.
That said, in addition to the signs above, several other identifiers of opioid addiction may be present, such as:
- Seeking pain medication prescriptions from multiple doctors
- Using pain medications prescribed to others
- Taking prescribed opioids even when not in pain
- Extreme mood swings
- Changes in sleep patterns
The presence of multiple signs in combination can suggest that an individual is dealing with opioid addiction.
Preventing Opioid Use Disorder
What should you do if your doctor prescribes an opioid drug for you? To lessen the chance of developing a substance use disorder, follow your doctors orders carefully, making sure to only take the medication as prescribed. If you are going to have a medical procedure, you should have a conversation with your physician beforehand about pain control.
Your questions for the physician may include:
- What is your strategy for pain control?
- Is this number of pills right for me?
- What options do I have other than taking an opioid to help control my pain?
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Vermont Prescription Monitoring System
The Vermont Prescription Monitoring System is a database of controlled substance prescriptions dispensed by Vermont licensed pharmacies that helps prescribers and pharmacists make better evidence-based clinical decisions and limit diversion. The system is used by registered prescribers and pharmacists to review prescriptions received by individuals to avoid contraindicated prescription combinations or overlapping prescriptions of similar drugs. It may also identify potential misuse of prescriptions and provide an opportunity to discussion of substance abuse screening, referral, and treatment options. More Information & Access VPMS
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:
- Loss of concentration or interest
- Confusion or disorientation
- Mood swings or extreme behavior changes
- Loss of interest in activities once enjoyed
- Stealing from loved ones or other illegal activities
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Start The Journey Towards Recovery From Opioids
Dont battle opioid or opiate addiction alone. Our comprehensive treatment program at Pathfinders Recovery Centers will help you achieve your goals and live a sober life. Our facilities offer outstanding accommodations to ensure comfort and safety throughout treatment.
Contact us today if you have any questions about substance use disorders and opioid abuse treatment programs at our locations in Arizona and Colorado. Our warm and welcoming Admission team is standing by and looks forward to you joining our recovery family, so please reach out now!
What Causes Opioid Addiction
Opioid drugs alter your brain by creating artificial endorphins. Besides blocking pain, these endorphins make you feel good. Too much opioid use can cause your brain to rely on these artificial endorphins. Once your brain does this, it can even stop producing its own endorphins. The longer you use opioids, the more likely this is to happen. You also will need more opioids over time because of drug tolerance.
Drug tolerance is when your body, over time, gets used to the effects of a drug. As this happens, you may need to take a higher dose of the drug to get the same effect. When you take opioids over time, you need a higher dose to get the same pain relief.
If you stop using an opioid for a period of time, your tolerance will begin to fade. If you need to begin taking it again, you most likely will not need your former higher dose. That can be too much for the body to take. If you stop taking a medication, and then resume, talk to your doctor about dosage.
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