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What is Opiate Addiction?

If one doesn’t take opioids as they were prescribed, they can quickly develop an opiate addiction. Read on to learn the signs and symptoms.

What is Opiate Addiction?

Opiate addiction is a long-term chronic disease that can lead to serious health, social, and economic issues. Opioids are a type of medication that acts on the nervous system to elicit feelings of pleasure and pain relief. Opioid addiction is marked by a strong compulsive desire to use opioid drugs even if they are no longer medically necessary.1

Doctors legally prescribe many opioids to treat severe chronic pain. Commonly prescribed opioids include morphine, methadone, hydrocodone, buprenorphine, codeine, and oxymorphone.

Is Opioid Addiction a Disease?

Opiate addiction is widely considered a disease by many organizations and medical professionals. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and the National Institute of Health (NIHS) describe substance addiction as a disorder or disease because addiction alters how the brain reacts to situations that involve reward, stress, and self-control. Also, addiction involves long-term changes that can last long after the individual has stopped using the drug.2

Opiate vs. Opioids: Key Differences

The key difference between opiates and opioids is how they are made. Opiates are chemical compounds extracted from or refined from natural plant matter. Examples include opium, morphine, codeine, and heroin.

Instead, opioids are chemical compounds that are mostly synthesized in the lab. Unlike opiates, they are not generally derived from natural plant matter. Some well-known opioids include Dextromethorphan, Dextropropoxyphene, Loperamide Hydrocodone, Oxycodone, Oxymorphone Meperidine, and Methadone. 

To show just how many people use opioids, almost three hundred million people globally (or 5.5% of the world's population aged fifteen to sixty-four) used drugs at least once in 2019. Of those, sixty-two million of them used opioids.3

Opiate Addiction Causes And Risk Factors

The causes and risk factors of opiate addiction are multifaceted and can come from more areas than you might think. Opioid addiction can be caused by genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors, some of which are unknown.

The nervous system contains receptors implanted in the outer membranes of nerve cells and neurons. When endogenous or exogenous opioids get to receptors, they cause a series of chemical changes within and between neurons resulting in feelings of euphoria and pain relief.

Opiate Addiction Risk Factors

The following are known potential risk factors for opiate addiction:

  • Unemployment
  • Poverty
  • Family or personal history of substance abuse
  • Previous drug or alcohol rehabilitation
  • History of severe depression and anxiety
  •  Heavy tobacco use
  • Frequent contact with high-risk individuals or environments.

Gendered Risk Factor

Gender can be another risk factor, as women are more likely to be prescribed opioid medications and to use opioids for a longer period of time.

Not all of these risk factors can lead to a substance abuse disorder, but it’s important to know the warning signs.

Signs and Symptoms of Opiate Addiction

There are many varying symptoms of opiate addiction. However, not all individuals experiencing opiate addiction will show the same symptoms. Here are the common symptoms of individuals struggling with opiate addiction.

Physical Signs

Physical indications of opiate addiction include:

  • Exhaustion
  • Pain relief
  • Respiratory depression
  • Sedation
  • Muscle spasms
  • Vomiting

  • Insomnia
  • Constipation
  • Itching
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Sweating
  • Seizures
  • Coma
  • Death

Psychological Signs

Psychological indications of opiate addiction include:

  • Memory problems
  • Hallucinations
  • Delusions
  • Paranoia
  • Mental health issues
  • Decline in emotional well-being

Behavioral Signs

Behavioral indications of opiate addiction include:

  • Not fulfilling familial and other responsibilities
  • Reduced performance at job or school
  • Fixation with obtaining, using, and recovering from the usage of opiates
  • Lying to others to cover the amount of drug taken
  • Withdrawing activities that were once pleasurable
  • Social isolation

  • Restlessness

There are many other factors that could be a symptom of opioid substance abuse disorders, but these ones are the most common and the ones to be on the look out for if you notice anything happening with either you or a loved one.

Opiate Addiction Side Effects And Health Risks

The effects of opiate addiction can be quite devastating for the affected individual and their loved ones. The effects of opiate addiction can include both short- and long-term effects.4

Short-Term Effects

Short-term impacts of opiate addiction include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Slowed breathing
  • Constipation
  • Unconsciousness
  • Nausea
  • Coma

Long-Term Effects

Opioid use or abuse can lead to physical dependence and addiction. When the drug is reduced or stopped, withdrawal symptoms can quickly set in, as the body was adapted to and relied on its presence. Some withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Restlessness
  • Muscle and bone pain 
  • Insomnia
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Cold flashes with goosebumps

These withdrawal symptoms can be more severe for those who built up a tolerance to opioids, meaning that their body became so used to the substances that they had to take more of the drug in order to create the same effect.

Opiate Overdose

Opioid drugs affect the part of your brain that regulates your breathing. An opiate overdose occurs when you take more opioids than your body can handle. This leads to the slowness of breath, unconsciousness, and can even result in death. 

Opiate Overdose Symptoms

The following are signs of opiate overdose:5 

  • Difficulty in walking and talking
  • Blue lips or nails
  • Small pupils
  • Cold and clammy skin
  • Dizziness and confusion
  • Extreme drowsiness

  • Choking, gurgling or snoring sounds
  • Slow, weak, or no breathing

Opiate Addiction and Pregnancy

Although some women may need to take opioids during pregnancy, using opioids during pregnancy puts up the following risks:6 

  • Neural tube defects - congenital disabilities of the spine or spinal cord
  • Congenital heart defects; issues with the baby's heart structure.
  • Miscarriage or stillbirth
  • Preterm delivery
  • Stunted baby growth

What Drugs Are Used To Treat Opioid Addiction?

Opiate Addiction

The three main medications for treating opioid addiction include methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone.

Methadone and buprenorphine help to trick the brain into thinking it is still receiving opioids. The individual taking the medication feels normal, and withdrawal does not occur. They also help to reduce cravings. Naltrexone helps reduce addiction by blocking the effect of opioids. It is also good for preventing relapse among affected individuals.

How to Help Someone With Opiate Addiction

The effect of opiate addiction can be far-reaching. You can help someone with opiate addiction by educating them on the dangers of opiate abuse and ensuring you do not enable or support the individual's addiction.

How Successful is Treatment? 

The success of treatment for substance use disorder varies by patient and the severity of the disorder. It is also influenced by other factors such as potential alcohol use or mental illness. Some treatment options include:

  • Opiate detox: Any treatment program generally starts with medically-supervised detox, which is controlled and safe withdrawal from opiates. 
  • Medications: The individual would be placed on a daily dose of methadone. Buprenorphine would also be administered to serve as an opioid replacement.
  • Therapy: Several therapy programs can help individuals overcome opiate addiction. Behavioral therapy is widely used during substance rehabilitation.
  • Support groups: These support groups can help individuals stay clean. Support groups provide people a recovery place to build relationships, share experiences, cope with challenges and be accountable.   

Get Help For Opiate Addiction at Anew Treatment Center

Opiate addiction is a complex disease that can affect your physical, social, and economic life.

At Anew Treatment Center, we offer residential rehab programs where patients receive top-notch supervised treatment and structured care plans to overcome addiction. Contact us today to begin a path to complete recovery from opiate addiction. 

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