4 MIN READ | Clinical Psychology

Dennis Relojo-Howell

Signs and Symptoms of Opioid Addiction

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Dennis Relojo-Howell, (2021, December 7). Signs and Symptoms of Opioid Addiction. Psychreg on Clinical Psychology. https://www.psychreg.org/signs-symptoms-opioid-addiction/
Reading Time: 4 minutes

Opioids, sometimes called narcotics, are medications prescribed by the doctor to treat severe pain. These medications are mostly prescribed to patients who suffer from chronic back pains and headaches, are recovering from a severe surgery, or individuals who have injured themselves while playing sports.The functioning of opioids is quite direct. It attacks itself with the protein called opioid receptor on the nerve cell in the brain, spinal cord, and other nerve cells in the body. When this happens, it blocks the nerve cell and transfers the pain signal to the trev brain. Hence, effectively relieving the pain.

Although this is an effective medication, doctors can prescribe it only in a given condition. This is because of the risks they carry and can be highly addictive. In fact, the risk of addiction is quite high for the people who use this medication to treat their chronic pain.Today, in this article, we will cover all the aspects of opioids. Starting from their prescription to the commonly prescribed opioids and their abuse to signs and symptoms, we will encapsulate them all.

What are opioid prescriptions?

Opioids are the class of drugs that are found in the opium poppy plants. Some medicines are made directly from the plants, while some are created using the same chemical structure in the lab.

The reason why opioids are used for medication is because of their pain-relieving nature. Although opioids can help patients relieve the pain, it makes them high simultaneously, so they are sometimes used for non-medical reasons.

Commonly prescribed opioids

  • Oxymorphone
  • Fentanyl
  • Morphine
  • Codeine
  • Hydrocodone

How do people misuse prescription opioids?

Prescribed opioids are generally taken for pain relief and are safe if taken for a short period. However, some people misuse it for substance usage. Opioids have a high effect which makes people become addicted to them.

They overdose themselves:

  • Take opioids on someone’s prescription.
  • Or take opioids to reach the state of high.

When people are addicted to opioids, they find different ways to consume them. Some simply swallow the pills. While some make power and mix it with water to inject into their veins. Some also snort the powder.

Opioid addiction is similar to any substance addiction. If you ever find yourself walking down that path, call for professional rehabilitation help. To know more about rehabilitation, visit https://www.gallusdetox.com/locations/colorado/denver-detox-center/.

What are the signs of the opioid addiction?

Opioid addiction is quite common in the US. No, not because of their illegal use, but because they are used to relieve pain. Opioids are one of the common medications prescribed by doctors to patients suffering from chronic back pains and headaches or recovery from a severe surgery.

However, opioids can be easily misused by other street drugs because of their high effect. 

You would be surprised to know that about 80% of the heroin addicts in the US began with prescription opioids, according to the National Institute of Drug Abuse.

Seeing how common this drug abuse can be, it is important that you know the signs related to opioid addiction.

Talking about the signs and symptoms, there are just too many signs pointing towards opioid addiction.

Mood symptoms

  • Hyperactivity
  • Depressed mood
  • Lack of motivation

Psychological symptoms

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Distorted perception of reality
  • Mood swings
  • Disorientation
  • Loss of concentration

Behavioural symptoms

  • Slowed or slurred speech
  • Loss of interest in the hobbies and activities that you once enjoyed
  • Diminished coordination
  • Stealing from loved ones
  • Withdrawn socially

Physical symptoms

  • Itchy skin
  • Diarrhoea
  • Nauseous
  • Vomiting
  • Headaches
  • Weight loss
  • Cramping

Opioid withdrawal symptoms

Prolonged exposure to opioid medication can make the individual dependent on the substance. Opioid withdrawal symptoms here refer to the effects an individual faces when they try to stop using the substance.

There are a variety of symptoms that an individual goes through while trying to distance themselves from opioid use.

  • Insomnia
  • Cramps
  • Anxiety
  • Cravings
  • Diarrhoea
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Shakes
  • Muscles ache
  • Irritation
  • Sweating

Some of the symptoms we are talking about here can be seen as early as a few hours after the last dose.

Possible effects of opioids on brain and body

Opioids might have medicinal properties to relieve pain. But the same property is used for addictive reasons. Here are some short and long-term side effects on the body and brain.

How opioids affect the brain?

There are opioid receptors in the brain. But they do not produce enough opioids to stop severe pain. So, when an individual takes a pill of Opioid, their brain is filled with Dopamine.Dopamine is often considered the brain’s feel-good chemical. It rewards natural behavior like eating, exercising, and sex. Repeated use of opioids sends a strong message to the brain to continue using the substance – thereby making you addicted to opioids.

How opioids affect the body?

Opioid prescriptions are rising, exposing the body to its harmful side effects. Here is how opioid addiction can harm your body.

  • Respiratory system. Opioid effect affects the brain and the central nervous system, which control the body’s respiratory system. It significantly affects the individual’s breathing pattern, making them feel suffocated.
  • Digestive system. Digestive system is one of the most impacted processes inside the body. It makes the individual feel nauseous, stomach pain and delayed digestion.
  • Immune system. Opioids are known to suppress the normal functionality of the immune system. It reduces your body’s ability to fight off the bacterial invasion.

WHO response and recommendations

WHO supports the country that ensures the rational use of opioids for medical purposes. It also ensures optimal availability of this medicine in the market to mitigate its misuse and non-medical usage.

Furthermore, WHO recommended that Naloxone be made available to the people who are likely to witness an opioid overdose. If an individual is exposed to Opioid overdose, the first treatment should include airway management, assisting ventilation, and administering Naloxone.


Dennis Relojo-Howell is the founder of Psychreg. 

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