Signs & Symptoms of Opioid Addiction

Bayside Marin is a premier rehabilitation center dedicated to the treatment of opioid addiction in California. Bayside Marin blends evidence-based treatments with alternative, holistic modalities to comprehensively treat all aspects of our client’s life.

Understanding Opioids

Learn about opioids and substance abuse

Opioids are a class of substances that work by depressing the central nervous system, hindering an individual’s ability to feel pain while simultaneously eliciting sensations of relaxation. Opioids include heroin and various types of prescription painkillers, such as morphine, Vicodin, codeine, OxyContin, and many others. In regards to these prescription painkillers, when they are used for legitimate purposes to help alleviate the pain that results from injuries, surgeries, or other types of medical conditions, they can provide a profound sense of relief for individuals. However, because of the pleasurable sensations that are introduced by the use of these substances, as well as the addictive properties that opioids consist of in general, many individuals find themselves beginning to use opioid painkillers for recreational purposes as opposed to medicinal purposes. Once this type of substance abuse has started, it can be extremely difficult for people to stop. Similarly, once individuals have begun using heroin, it can be exceedingly hard to put an end to that destructive behavior without professional help. Fortunately, there are treatment options for opioid abuse available that can help these individuals overcome their desire and compulsion to use opioids and rediscover a happy, healthy, and sober life.


Opioid addiction statistics

Heroin has long been considered to be the most prominently abused of all opioid substances. However, recent studies have demonstrated that the abuse of prescription opioid painkillers, such as those previously mentioned, are rapidly becoming nearly as popular. The National Institute on Drug Abuse states that approximately 52 million people in the United States have experimented with using prescription painkillers for recreational purposes at some point in their lives. Furthermore, an estimated five million people in the U.S. alone meet criteria for a clinical diagnosis of addiction to this perilous substance. Tragically, studies have shown that, on average, 17,000 people die as a direct result of overdosing on opioids each year in the United States.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and risk factors for opioid addiction

There are a combination of varying factors that can impact an individual’s susceptibility to developing an addiction to opioids. These factors are mentioned in the following:

Genetic: Throughout years of research on the topic, significant evidence has been provided demonstrating that there is a strong hereditary link to the onset of addiction, and this includes addiction to opiates. People who have biological family members who struggle with substance abuse and addiction are at heightened risk for struggling with chemical dependency concerns at some point in their lives as well.

Environmental: There are certain environmental circumstances that, when present, can heighten an individual’s vulnerability to experimenting with the abuse of substances, such as opioids, and subsequently developing an addiction. For example, when people are exposed to the frequent use of drugs and/or alcohol, they will likely begin to view such behaviors as being acceptable forms of recreation and may therefore begin participating in them as well. Additionally, there have been studies conducted that concluded that there are higher rates of drug use, including opioid use, in areas where there exists much crime, high unemployment rates, and where a lack of parental involvement is commonplace.

Risk Factors:

  • Undergoing surgery, getting a severe injury, or suffering from a chronic pain or other medical condition for which a prescription for opioid medication is prescribed to provide relief
  • Personal history of mental illness
  • Personal history of abusing other types of drugs and/or alcohol
  • Family history of substance abuse and addiction
  • Family history of mental illness
  • Ease of access to opioids
  • Peer pressure
  • Spending time in an environment where substance use is prevalent
  • Being exposed to crime and violence

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of opioid addiction

While people tend to go to great lengths to try and conceal their abuse of substances, there are some telltale warning signs that may be indicative of the fact that someone is struggling with an addiction to opioids. The specific type of opiate that a person is abusing will play a determining factor in the specific symptoms that he or she ultimately displays, but the following are some examples of possible signs that may be exhibited:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Lying about pain in order to obtain multiple prescriptions for opioid medications from multiple doctors
  • Stealing or consistently asking to borrow money from others
  • Taking prescriptions that belong to someone else
  • Frequently being absent from work
  • Isolating oneself from friends and family members
  • Failing to fulfill daily obligations and adhere to various responsibilities
  • Slurred speech
  • No longer participating in activities that were once enjoyed
  • Engaging in sudden, unprovoked angry outbursts
  • Possessing drug paraphernalia, such as needles or other items used to administer or conceal opioids

Physical symptoms:

  • Disturbances in sleeping patterns
  • Significant changes occurring in one’s eating patterns
  • Frequent nausea
  • Decreased blood pressure
  • Slowed heart rate
  • Alternating between having constipation and diarrhea
  • Constricted pupils
  • Noticeable changes in physical appearance (e.g. no longer caring how one looks and lacking appropriate hygiene)

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Significant memory disturbances
  • Intermittent periods of dozing / excessive feelings of drowsiness
  • Struggling with altered states of perception
  • Irreversible cognitive impairment
  • Severe concentration difficulties
  • Hindered learning capabilities
  • Excessive dizziness

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Agitation
  • Anger
  • Fluctuating moods
  • Suicidal ideation


Effects of opioid addiction

The prolonged abuse of opioids can leave users vulnerable to experiencing any number of adverse consequences. Examples of effects known to affect opioid users may include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Failure to perform at the expected level in one’s work environment or being frequently absent from work, resulting in job loss and subsequent financial strife
  • Alienation from family and friends
  • Significant relationship disturbances
  • Familial strife
  • Divorce
  • Legal problems
  • Decline in one’s overall mental health
  • Decline in one’s overall physical health

Co-Occurring Disorders

Opioid addiction and co-occurring disorders

The presence of an addiction to opioids often coincides with the presence of an additional mental health condition. Examples of disorders that have been cited as co-occurring alongside the abuse of opioids include the following:

  • Depressive disorders
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder
  • Borderline personality disorder

Withdrawal & Overdose

Effects of opioid withdrawal and overdose

Effects of opioid withdrawal: When the use of opioids suddenly comes to a halt, individuals are likely going to experience a period of withdrawal as their bodies become rid of the remnants of this toxic substance. While withdrawing from opioids is not usually a life-threatening occurrence, the symptoms are known to be extremely unpleasant and may include the following:

  • Runny nose
  • Watery eyes
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Bone pain
  • Stomach cramping
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Paranoia
  • Panic attacks
  • Insomnia
  • Cravings for the substance

Effects of opioid overdose: When an individual consumes a higher dosage of opioids than his or her body is capable of metabolizing, he or she will experience an overdose. While withdrawing from opioids is not a life-threatening occurrence, overdosing on opioids can be. For this reason, it is imperative that this situation be viewed as an emergency and that medical treatment be sought immediately. Signs that could indicate that someone has overdosed on opioids may include the following:

  • Pinpoint pupils
  • Labored breathing / shallow, slowed respirations
  • Slowed pulse rate
  • Delayed response to stimuli
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Decreased state of alertness
  • Loss of color in one’s finger nails, lips, and skin pallor
  • Seizure
  • Lapsing into a coma

I highly recommend Bayside Marin for anyone addicted to opioids. The staff is excellent, and the program is well organized and very effective.

– Anonymous Client
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