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Opioid Addiction Symptoms, Signs, and Treatment

Opioid addiction is a global health crisis with severe impacts on physical and mental well-being, relationships, work or school performance, and financial stability. Breaking free from its grip often requires professional help. Therefore, understanding the signs of opioid addiction is crucial. Treatment options, including medications and therapies, help individuals recover and lead meaningful lives. A comprehensive aftercare plan with lifestyle modifications is key to maintaining long-term recovery.

What Are Opioids?

Opioids are very potent and extremely addictive drugs that come from opium, which is derived from the poppy plant. Opioids include a variety of drugs. Some are natural, synthetic, legal, illegal, recreational, or medicinal. The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) classifies prescription opioids as Schedule II controlled substances because they have a medical use but also a high risk of misuse. 

Natural opioids have been used to treat nervous disorders, cancers, and other conditions. Most painkillers are opioids and are prescribed to relieve chronic or severe pain. People with opioid use disorder will usually take more than the required dose and obtain more illegally. Synthetic or manmade opioids have similar effects but can be used as an option for opioid addiction treatment

Any long-term use of opioids increases the risk of addiction, even prescription drugs. Opioid tolerance triggers the vicious cycle of addiction. People take more and more of the substance to reach that pleasurable feeling from the first time using. The continuous increase in use puts a person at a very high risk of overdose.

What drugs are opioids?

Schedule II prescription opioid drugs include:

  • Oxycodone
  • Oxymorphone
  • Hydrocodone
  • Hydromorphone
  • Fentanyl
  • Morphine
  • Codeine
  • Methadone
  • Tramadol
  • Buprenorphine

Heroin, an illegal synthetic street drug derived from morphine, is also an opioid but a Schedule I controlled substance with no currently accepted medical use in the United States. It is one of the most powerful and dangerous drugs and a person can become addicted after just one use.

Physical Symptoms of Opioid Addiction

Opioid addiction can manifest in physical symptoms, indicating the presence of opioid use disorder. Physical symptoms may vary depending on the specific opioids being used, the dosage, and the individual’s overall health. If someone is struggling with opioid addiction, it’s critical to encourage them to seek professional addiction treatment and support right away. 

Some common physical symptoms of opioid addiction include:

  • Constricted pupils: Opioids cause the pupils to become noticeably smaller than usual.
  • Drowsiness or nodding off: Individuals addicted to opioids may frequently appear sleepy or drift in and out of consciousness.
  • Slurred speech: Opioid use can lead to difficulty in articulating words clearly and coherently.
  • Poor coordination: Opioid addiction affects motor skills and coordination. Thus, leading to unsteady movements.
  • Weight changes: Some people may experience fluctuations in weight, either gaining or losing, due to opioid addiction.
  • Itchy or flushed skin: Opioids can cause the skin to become itchy and red.
  • Nausea and vomiting: Opioid use often causes gastrointestinal problems, leading to nausea and vomiting.
  • Constipation: Opioids commonly cause constipation, as they slow down body systems.
  • Respiratory issues: Opioid use depresses the respiratory system, leading to shallow breathing or difficulty breathing.
  • Needle marks or track marks: Intravenous drug use leaves visible puncture marks on the skin, especially in the arms or other injection sites.

Behavioral Signs of Opioid Addiction

Opioid addiction is recognizable through various behavioral signs and changes in a person’s actions and habits. It’s essential to approach someone showing behavioral signs of opioid addiction with empathy and understanding. Encourage them to seek professional opioid addiction treatment and support for their recovery. 

Some common behavioral signs of opioid addiction include:

  • Obsession with obtaining opioids: An individual thinks about or obsesses over obtaining and using opioids. Which can lead to a preoccupation with drug-seeking behaviors.
  • Doctor shopping: They may visit multiple doctors or healthcare providers to obtain multiple prescriptions for the drugs.
  • Neglecting responsibilities: Individuals may neglect important responsibilities at work, school, or home, as obtaining and using drugs becomes a priority.
  • Social withdrawal: Individuals may withdraw from social interactions and activities they once enjoyed in favor of drug use.
  • Continued use despite negative consequences: Even when facing adverse effects on health, relationships, finances, or legal problems they continue using the drugs.
  • Secretive behavior: People addicted to opioids may become secretive about their activities and whereabouts, trying to hide their drug use from others.
  • Changes in friendships and social circles: The person associates with new groups of people who are also involved in drug use.
  • Risky behaviors: Opioid addiction can lead to engaging in risky behaviors to obtain drugs, such as stealing or participating in illegal activities.
  • Increased tolerance: Over time, an individual may require higher doses of opioids to achieve the same effects, leading to increased tolerance.
  • Withdrawal symptoms: When opioids wear off, individuals may experience withdrawal symptoms like irritability, anxiety, nausea, and muscle pain, driving them to use opioids to relieve these symptoms.
  • Failed attempts to quit: Someone with opioid addiction may try to quit or cut back on drug use but find it challenging to do so due to withdrawal symptoms and cravings.

Opioid Addiction Treatment

Opioid addiction treatment typically involves a combination of medical interventions, behavioral therapies, and support systems to help individuals recover from opioid use disorder. The main goals of opioid addiction treatment are to reduce cravings, manage withdrawal symptoms, and address the underlying issues contributing to addiction. 

Here are some common approaches to opioid addiction treatment:

  • Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT): MAT combines the use of FDA-approved medications with behavioral therapies. These medications help safely reduce opioid cravings and withdrawal symptoms. Thereby, allowing individuals to focus on their recovery without experiencing intense physical discomfort.
  • Behavioral Therapies: Various behavioral therapies, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT), are effective in treating opioid addiction. These therapies help individuals recognize and change negative thought patterns and behaviors. While also learning coping skills, and promoting healthier decision-making.
  • Counseling and Support Groups: Individual and group counseling sessions provide a safe space for individuals to discuss their challenges related to addiction. Additionally, support groups offer a supportive community of peers who understand the struggles of addiction.
  • Detoxification: Medically supervised detoxification helps manage acute withdrawal symptoms when someone stops using opioids. Medical detox is often the first step in the treatment process.
  • Dual Diagnosis Treatment: Many individuals also have co-occurring mental health disorders. Dual diagnosis treatment addresses both addiction and mental health disorders simultaneously for more effective outcomes.
  • Holistic Therapies: Some treatment programs incorporate holistic approaches, such as mindfulness, yoga, art therapy, and meditation, to promote overall well-being during the recovery process.
  • Aftercare and Continuing Support: After completing a treatment program, individuals benefit from ongoing support to prevent relapse. Aftercare involves outpatient counseling, 12-step meetings, or other support to the individual’s needs.
  • Family Involvement: Involving family members in the treatment process improves communication and support networks. Therefore,  fostering a healthier home environment for the person in recovery.

Find Safe and Effective Opioid Addiction Treatment at Enlightened Solutions

Recovery begins with you. You make the decision to call and ask for help and start a transformational, life-changing journey. The power to heal is yours. Let Enlightened Solutions show you the path of holistic treatment, bringing together the best practices of evidence-based clinical care, proven alternative healing practices, and a trusted 12-step philosophy. 

Contact us today to learn more about our safe and effective approach to opioid addiction treatment.

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