The opioid crisis has ruined lives and ripped families and communities apart. More than 130 people die every day in the United States from an opioid overdose, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Prescription opioids are commonly prescribed by a medical professional after an injury or surgery. They are also used to treat chronic pain. Opiates can be highly addictive so it is important to know the signs of opiate use. Prescription painkiller medicines are known by many brand names, such as OxyContin and Vicodin. Opioids come in multiple legal and illegal forms, including:

  • Codeine
  • Fentanyl
  • Morphine
  • Heroin

When someone takes opioids longer than necessary, or at a higher dose than needed, they are at risk for drug abuse. Research shows that prescribed opioids can lead to physical dependence in as little as five days.

Some people become addicted after taking a prescription drug for legitimate purposes. Abuse of opioid medicines can lead to abuse of illicit opioids. A recent estimate suggests about 80% of heroin users first had a history with prescribed opioids. People who abuse drugs often end up mixing opioids with other harmful drugs, which puts them at higher risk for an opioid overdose.

What Are the Signs of Opiate Use and When is It Abuse?

Are you or a family member struggling with an addiction to opioids? If so, it may be time for opioid abuse treatment. See if you recognize these warning signs of opioid use in yourself or a loved one:

  • Prolonged use of prescription medicine
  • Taking pain medicine after the pain has gone away
  • Needing more medicine as drug tolerance increases
  • Uncontrollable drug cravings
  • Inability to stop using the drug
  • Seeking illicit drugs when the legal supply runs out
  • Difficulties with relationships at home and work
  • Drain on finances due to drug use
  • Missing work due to inability to function properly
  • Inability to stop taking the drug due to withdrawal symptoms

Effects of Opioid Abuse

The Brain

Chronic opioid abuse changes in the brain. Brain cells with opioid receptors become less responsive to the same dose of the medicine. This causes the person to take more of the drug to achieve the same effect. It becomes a constant need to get enough drugs to achieve the effects the person felt when they first started using. Eventually, the brain develops abnormalities that lead to opioid addiction. The person can no longer be without the drug or withdrawal will begin within hours. The brain slows or even stops producing natural feel-good chemicals.

The Body

Some of the physical side effects of chronic opioid use include:

  • Acute pain without opioid use
  • Hearing loss
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Headaches
  • Constipation
  • Sleepiness

Opiate Withdrawal Symptoms

Opiate addiction is a serious problem, but you should not try to deal with it alone. If you stop using opioids abruptly, or “cold turkey,” you may go into opiate withdrawal within a few hours. Opiate withdrawal can be dangerous. Signs of opioid use withdrawal may include:

  • Depression
  • Severe anxiety
  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Heart palpitations
  • Constant sweating
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Hypertension
  • Fever
  • Insomnia
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Dehydration
  • Seizures

Causes and Risk Factors for Opioid Addiction

No one knows exactly what leads to opioid addiction but research points to the following:

  • Genetic predisposition – People who have a parent or grandparent with an addiction or substance use disorder are at a higher risk at developing an opioid addiction, or similar or related addiction.
  • Impulsivity gene – Some families see the gene for impulsivity passed from generation to generation. A father may be a gambler and a grandfather could have an alcohol addiction. And the new generation may end up with an opioid problem.
  • Early trauma – Early environment matters. Childhood abuse, neglect or trauma can have a lasting impact on an individual and they may have turned to opioids to quell their feelings of self-hatred and internal emotional pain.
  • Lack of coping skills – Some people carry a great deal of pain from their childhood and have never fully matured or they lack effective skills for dealing with life. Many have not had role models or responsible adults to teach them self-care. They turn to drugs to try to manage their feelings.
  • Ignorance about opioid dangers – Evidence suggests the opioid crisis may have been fueled, in part, by prescribing habits of physicians trying to help patients with pain. Physicians did not realize the full impact of their prescriptions and patients took drugs that led to addiction.

Starting Over Again with Opioid Addiction Treatment

Opioid drug addiction takes thousands of lives every year. But there is hope. Lucida Treatment Center provides evidence-based opioid addiction drug rehab that includes:

If a loved one is showing signs of opiate use, Lucida offers compassionate residential treatment for addiction. We treat mental illness as well. Speak confidentially with a Lucida recovery advisor at 1.866.947.7299.