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Opioid Addiction

Opioid addiction is still a national drug crisis in the U.S. Opioid addiction causes severe health, financial, and social issues. It is taxing states, cities, and towns, and destroying families and relationships.

The 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH, sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reports, “In 2017, there were 11.4 million past year opioid misusers aged 12 or older in the United States, the vast majority of whom misused prescription pain relievers. 

“Specifically, 11.1 million people aged 12 or older in 2017 misused prescription pain relievers in the past year compared with 886,000 people who used heroin.”

Opioid pain relievers, such as Vicodin, Percocet, and OxyContin, are the main contenders in the fight against prescription opioid drug addiction.

However, current government restrictions on these medications, and those like it, force people who need pain relief to find other avenues to get the medication needed. They may even head to the streets to obtain heroin, which is easier and cheaper to get.

Opioids are most addictive, and people who have taken them come from all facets of life, and can become quickly addicted to the drug. It is imperative to understand addiction and its underlying causes to find and receive help in stopping the use of them.

Learning how to identify opioid addiction symptoms and seek opioid addiction treatment is time-sensitive.

Read on to learn more about opioids, how opioid addiction starts,and what the opioid addiction symptoms are so that you or your loved one can triumph over this challenging substance use disorder.

What Are Opioids?

The term opioid entails a large and varied category of drugs. When the word “opioid” is used, it may indicate both illicit (illegal) and prescription medications. Opioids are a class of drug that reduces pain. There are three main types: prescription opioids such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, morphine, and methadone. Synthetic opioids include fentanyl and tramadol. Illicit opioids include heroin.

Types of Opioids

Below is a list of the most common opioids. These vary in strength and the level of control the U.S. government places them under on the Controlled Substances Schedule. The higher the possibility of abuse and addiction the chemical has; the higher it is listed. For instance, heroin is a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) controlled substance under Schedule I. Tramadol is a non-narcotic opioid is under Schedule Iv.

  • Heroin
  • Fentanyl
  • Hydrocodone
  • Hydromorphone
  • Codeine
  • Morphine
  • Methadone
  • Meperidine
  • Oxycodone
  • Tramadol

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How Opioids Work

How opioids affect the brain and body are what make them addictive and dangerous. Opioids can be swallowed, snorted, inhaled, or injected. When they are consumed, the internal chemistry of the brain changes immediately.

Opioids bind to the opioid receptors in the brain, which are located on the neurons of brain cells. The receptors are also found in other parts of the body like the central nervous system. Opioid receptors are also located in the gastrointestinal tract and are in the lining of the stomach.

When the opioids bind to the opioid receptors, the substances send signals to the brain, which blocks the feelings of pain, slows breathing down, and acts as an antidepressant by causing calming and sometimes mild euphoric effects.

Opioids then impact the brain’s reward system. They flood the circuit with the neurotransmitter dopamine (the feel-good chemical), and the body is “rewarded” with feelings of pleasure. Dopamine also affects emotion, cognition, motivation, and is responsible for regulating movement in the body.

The euphoric feeling the user gets when consuming opioids is the main force behind the continued use of the drug, and the behavior driving it.

The drugs change the internal chemistry of the brain and body, which means that when use is abruptly decreased or stopped completely, the body can no longer regulate internal functions and processes.

The brain and body adjusting to the lack of opioids and trying to function normally is the withdrawal period.

The psychological addiction to opioids, where someone uses drugs to regulate mood and emotion, is one cause of opioid addiction.

Opioid addiction is a difficult substance use disorder that causes severe physical, emotional, and financial difficulties for the addicted person and the people in their lives.

It is imperative to know the signs of opioid addiction as soon as possible to prevent substance use disorder from becoming worse.

Once successfully identified and diagnosed, you can find help for yourself or a loved one at a substance use treatment center.

Signs and Symptoms of Opioid Addiction

People who live with chronic pain would say that opioids lessen the pain and improve their lives. However, long-term opioid use can quickly lead to addiction. The longer someone takes opioids; the more tolerant of them they become. The more tolerant; the more likely they will become dependent on them. Addiction is right around the corner.

Substance abuse presents as a pattern that you might recognize. It can be very helpful to know if you or someone else might be on the way to opioid addiction.

Tolerance happens when the initially prescribed dose has less effect than when it was first taken. As time passes, the prescribed dose has a weaker effect. The person taking the drug will want to take a higher dose to feel the same effects as the prescribed dose.

This can lead to chemical dependence on the drug.

Chemical dependency occurs when your body and brain require the drug to function normally. Opioid dependency occurs when the brain begins to rely on opioids to maintain balance from the chemicals it stopped producing on drug use.

When you slow down your use or stop taking opioids, you likely will feel some withdrawal symptoms. This indicates dependency. Opioid withdrawal has often been described as having the worst flu ever.

Signs and symptoms of opioid abuse are:

  • Sweating
  • Chills
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Excessive yawning
  • Pinpoint eyes
  • Slurred speech

If you are wondering if you or someone else might be addicted to opioids, here are some signs to look for:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Lying about drug use
  • Mood swings
  • Isolation
  • Decreased performance at work or school
  • Hiding drugs around the house
  • Not interested in usual activities
  • Attempts to quit but failing despite multiple attempts

Addiction is the final stage of a substance use disorder. It is defined as compulsive use of a drug despite serious consequences.

 Treatment for Opioid Addiction

Addiction treatment is a vital step in treating a substance use disorder. The most beneficial addiction treatment plans move the client through the continuum of care, which addresses every aspect of the person with an addiction.

Medical issues are treated, and so are co-occurring disorders.

Therapies are provided that address the behaviors behind the addiction, and programs are offered to educate the client about thoughts and behavior that will lead to relapse prevention and long-term sobriety.

Patients are first sent to a medical detoxification facility where they are monitored while undergoing the process of ridding the body of drugs and toxins. Once that is complete, and the patient is stabilized, their needs are assessed, and they move on to a different level of care. This could be inpatient treatment, partial hospitalization, or intensive outpatient treatment.

No matter the placement, it will allow the client to understand themselves better and work toward earning their lives back.

While this may sound rather expensive, Harmony Hills staff will work with the client to determine if insurance will cover the costs, or if any financial assistance can be arranged. Our goal is to help you get back to a healthy life. Our serene, quiet, and private facility, tucked into the Ocala forested area in Florida, is the best place to get back on the road to a healthier life.

Opioid Abuse Statistics

  • Roughly 11 million people misused prescription pain relievers in 2017.
  • Researchers estimate there were 68,557 drug overdose deaths in 2018 with 47,590 involving opioids.
  • 80% of people who use heroin misused prescription medications first.

Source: 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration


Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Retrieved from

U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. Drug Schedule. Retrieved from

WebMD. What Are Opioids? Retrieved from

Mayo Clinic. How Opioid Addiction Occurs. Retrieved from

Mayo Clinic. Drug Addiction (substance use disorder). Retrieved from

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Opioid Basics. Retrieved from

National Institute on Drug Abuse. Opioid Overdose Crisis. January 2019. Retrieved from

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