Opioids are a class of drugs that include illegal drugs like heroin and legal prescription opioid painkillers. Natural opioids like morphine and heroin come from the opium poppy plant, while synthetic opioids like methadone are made in the lab.

These drugs are highly addictive, making opioid abuse a national crisis in the U.S. Although medical opioids help manage chronic pain, they produce a euphoric feeling. They can also lead to dependence and opiate addiction after prolonged use.

All opioids activate the reward circuits in the brain, mimicking brain chemicals associated with pleasure. Continued opiate abuse can lead to cravings for the pleasurable feelings caused by the drugs. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports over 2 million Americans to abuse opioids. According to the CDC, approximately 75% of American drug overdose fatalities in 2020 involved an opioid.

Luckily, Pathfinders Recovery Centers offer help for those with opioid addiction and opiate abuse. Keep reading to learn the signs of opioid use disorders (OUD) and addiction.

What are Opioid Use Disorders?

Signs of Opioid Addiction

An OUD or opioid addiction is a medical condition characterized by a persistent inability to abstain from opioid use. People with opioid addiction also exhibit opioid-related behaviors that significantly interfere with their daily lives.

Opiate addiction can lead to physical dependence on opioids, which manifests as withdrawal symptoms like cravings and sweating. However, abusing opioids without developing a physical tolerance to them is possible. Physical dependence makes it difficult to discontinue opioid use, which can have far-reaching consequences on a person’s life and relationships.

A medical professional can help diagnose the OUD. Although people battling opiate addiction might not initially exhibit symptoms, they may show some signs over time.

Signs of Intoxication from Opioid

When one is high on opiate narcotics, they may show some of the signs below:

  • Constricted pupils.
  • Slurred speech.
  • Drowsiness and slow movements.
  • Reduced heart rate.
  • Low blood pressure and body temperature.
  • Euphoria.

Causes and Risk Factors for Opiate Addiction

Multiple factors predispose individuals to opiate addiction. They include:

  • Genetic risk factors: people with a first-degree family who struggle with addiction have a higher risk of developing the condition. But having a family history of a SUD is not a clear-cut predictor that you would become an addict.
  • Environmental factors: Addiction is more common in people raised in a chaotic home environment where substance abuse is tolerated or openly displayed.
  • Psychological causes and risk factors: Mental health issues are a significant indicator of addiction potential. This is because they are often the root cause of SUD in people trying to self-medicate the symptoms of untreated co-occurring disorders such as mental health conditions.
  • Biological risk factors: Research suggests that some people may be born without adequate levels of the neurotransmitter endorphins, and these people may seek out opioids and illicit substances to self-medicate this shortfall.

Signs of Opioid Addiction

It can be challenging to recognize when someone you care about is abusing opioids. Opioid dependence can lead to increased tolerance to the effects of the drug and eventual OUD. Below are the common signs and symptoms of opioid addiction.

Physical Signs and Symptoms

Physical symptoms of opiate addiction are most noticeable after a person has taken opioids recently. However, the negative consequences of long-term opiate use include:

  • Fatigue and sedation.
  • Tiny pupils.
  • Slow and shallow breathing.
  • Constant itching.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Scars from intravenous substance abuse.
  • Change in eating habits.
  • Weight loss.
  • Flu-like symptoms.

Mood Symptoms or Behavioral Symptoms

Behavioral Symptoms

A person’s mood and behavior may shift noticeably if they abuse opioids. Although behavioral symptoms vary in different people, below are the most common psychosocial symptoms:

  • Noticeable euphoria.
  • Sudden mood swings.
  • Avoiding social settings.
  • Anxiety and irritability
  • Secrecy and dishonesty.
  • Problems at work, home, or in relationships.
  • Legal issues.
  • Visiting multiple doctors to obtain multiple prescriptions.
  • A dramatic change in routines.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment and Opioids

Most opioid addicts also suffer from mental illness. Common co-occurring disorders include:

  • Anxiety disorders.
  • Bipolar disorder.
  • Depression.
  • Schizophrenia.
  • Antisocial personality disorder.

At Pathfinders, we offer dual diagnosis treatment for co-occurring disorders at our recovery and treatment centers.

The Effects of Leaving Opioid Addiction Untreated

Although opiate addiction is a chronic condition, it is treatable through a blend of behavioral therapy and medication. If left untreated, opioid abuse can cause economic, social, and health consequences. Illegal and prescribed opioids alter the brain’s normal functioning and brain chemistry, causing tolerance, dependence, and addiction.

Injectable opioids expose users to infectious diseases like HIV and other health issues like bacterial infections. Intravenous opioid use can also cause scarring or collapsed veins, while added ingredients in heroin often cause clogged blood vessels.

Taking too much of an opioid can cause overdose and, in worse cases, death. Signs of an opioid overdose are clammy skin, bluish lips and fingernails, and loss of consciousness. Mixing opioids and alcohol increases the risk of overdose effects.

Other medical complications from prolonged opioid use are:

  • Respiratory issues.
  • Sexual dysfunction in men.
  • Irregular menstruation cycles.
  • Cardiovascular issues.

Opioid Abuse Withdrawal Symptoms

After long-term opioid use, your body will require a higher dose of the drug to produce the same effect. Higher doses increase the potential of an unintentional overdose, which can have fatal consequences. They can alter the brain’s nerve receptors and cause physical dependence.

You may be physically dependent if you experience physical illness when you stop using an opioid. Many people continue to use opioids to avoid highly unpleasant symptoms. Others are unaware of their condition and brush off withdrawal as another illness.

Common Symptoms of Opioid Withdrawal

Common Symptoms of Opioid Withdrawal

The severity of opiate withdrawal symptoms varies widely depending on the drug and duration of use. However, there is a typical timeline for the onset and progression of the signs and symptoms.

In the first few hours after stopping drug use, you may experience the following symptoms:

  • Anxiety.
  • Excessive sweating.
  • Restlessness.
  • Muscle aches.
  • Runny nose.
  • Insomnia.
  • Frequent yawning.

After the first day, later opiate withdrawal signs include:

  • Abdominal pain.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Fast heart rate.
  • Elevated blood pressure.
  • Dilated pupils.
  • Blurry vision.
  • Goosebumps on skin.

The severity of the symptoms improves gradually in 72 hours and reduces significantly within a week. But remember that different drugs stay in your system for varying timelines.

Opioid Addiction Treatment

Opioid addiction is a chronic condition like diabetes that can affect anyone. Fortunately, addiction is treatable, and recovery is possible. Treatment using safe and effective approaches offered by professionals leads to a positive and healthy lifestyle.

According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM), the best opioid treatment approach involves medication and behavioral counseling. Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) begins with an assessment by medical personnel to evaluate the patient’s addiction and health. After examination, the clinician will help develop a treatment plan based on the ASAM Levels of Care.

addiction treatment

Opioid addiction treatment plans include counseling and medications such as naltrexone. Addiction medications help reduce the effects of withdrawal and prevent relapse, while counseling addresses behavioral and social issues that contribute to addiction. It can be individual or group therapy. Many rehab centers offer family counseling options because addiction may affect family members and friends. Most treatment programs involve:

  • Contingency management: Motivational tools like prizes and incentives increase the likelihood that a patient will continue to take prescribed drugs or show up for scheduled therapy sessions.
  • Motivational interviewing: This process helps patients understand why they might not want to alter their behavior.
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT): CBT helps patients understand why they may be abusing drugs and educates them on coping mechanisms for stress.
  • 12-step groups: The members of a 12-step group work toward specific objectives, such as regularly attending meetings or securing a sponsor.
  • Support groups: Those who attend a support group can connect with others who have been through a similar ordeal. In case of relapse, they can provide their advice on how to heal and move on.

For more information about opioid use disorder treatment, call us at +18772240761 for confidential advice.

Start the Journey Towards Recovery from Opioids

Don’t battle opioid or opiate addiction alone. Our comprehensive treatment program at Pathfinders Recovery Centers will help you achieve your goals and live a sober life. Our facilities offer outstanding accommodations to ensure comfort and safety throughout treatment.

Contact us today if you have any questions about substance use disorders and opioid abuse treatment programs at our locations in Arizona and Colorado. Our warm and welcoming Admission team is standing by and looks forward to you joining our recovery family, so please reach out now!


  • 7580 E Gray Rd Suite 201 Scottsdale, AZ 85260
  • (877) 224-0761
  • Mon-Sun: 24x7
  • Mon-Fri: 8:00AM – 4:00PM

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