Signs and Symptoms of Opiate Addiction

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The signs and symptoms of opiate addiction can be subtle at first, and progressively get worse until they are so blatantly obvious that there is no way to deny the addiction exists. But what are these signs and symptoms? Addiction to opiates is a disease that affects all aspects of the person who struggles with it’s life. Understanding what to look for, and what can be done can be crucial to someone getting some much needed help.


What are Opiates?

Opiates are legally and illegally manufactured and obtained pain killers. Coming in both synthetic and non synthetic forms, these drugs are addictive and can lead to some severe consequences for those who use them. Prescription opiates such as hydrocodone, and oxycodone are used to help treat those with pain, particularly after surgery, or those who have chronic pain. The synthetic opiate fentanyl is also used post surgery, as well as for those who suffer from chronic pain and have become tolerant to other prescription opiate pain medications. 

Heroin, another opiate, is illegally manufactured and illicitly obtained. It has no medical uses, and because it is manufactured and distributed illegally, there is no way of knowing what agents are mixed into it, nor the levels at which they are mixed. This is what makes street manufactured drugs like heroin and fentanyl so deadly. 

What Makes Opiates Addictive?

Opiates attach the opioid receptors in the brain. These receptors are responsible for vital functions such as sleep and breathing. They are also responsible for regulating sensations of pleasure and pain. When the receptors are altered by opiates attaching to them, it can lead to a change in the way pain and pleasure are perceived, essentially altering the brain chemistry when it comes to these things. When this happens, it can make it hard to feel “good” without using the drug. The signs and symptoms of opiate addiction include loss of interest, especially when the drug is not readily available.

 While opiates are meant to help in treating people who suffer with pain, they also cause a feeling of euphoria in those who use them. This rush of euphoria is a leading contributor in why these drugs are so addictive. People who use opiates for this sensation tend to use more and more of the drug in order to feel that sensation, leading to tolerance and dependence. The body becomes tolerant to the drug, requiring more to achieve the desired effects. When the drug is then abruptly stopped or removed, the body doesn’t know what is going on and goes into withdrawal. Knowing what signs and symptoms of opiate addiction to look for can help someone identify when someone around them is struggling, and in need of help.


Signs and Symptoms of Opiate Addiction

There can be many signs and symptoms of opiate addiction someone can look out for in a loved one. These can be behavioral, physical, cognitive or emotional changes. Likely it will be a combination of different symptoms from all of the aforementioned. 


Behavioral changes that could be signs and symptoms of opiate addiction can include lying, stealing, consistently borrowing or asking for money, slurred speech, withdrawing from activities and people, and lack of coordination. The effects of opiates can also cause someone to nod in and out of consciousness.


Some physical things to look out for include:

  • Weight loss
  • Diarrhea
  • Headaches
  • Sores
  • Track marks
  • Injection spots
  • Bruising


Cognitive changes that can be indicative of opiate addiction can include things like disorientation, poor decision making, impulsivity, poor concentration, and trouble communicating.


Things like depression, anxiety, lack of emotional control, angry outbursts, mood swings, and emotional distance can be signs and symptoms of opiate addiction. 


Opiate Withdrawal and Overdose

Opiate addiction can lead to some pretty severe consequences, including fatal and non fatal overdose. Because opiates affect the central nervous system, breathing can be affected. When someone is undergoing an overdose, they may experience labored or shallow breathing. This can lead to loss of consciousness and lack of oxygen in the brain causing brain damage or death. An overdose occurs when more of the drug is used than the body is able to process. Other signs of overdose include changes in skin tone, limp arms and legs, loss of consciousness, vomiting, and choking or gurgling sounds. Watching for these symptoms could potentially save someone from a fatal overdose.


Anyone struggling with opiate addiction is recommended to receive professional help to achieve long lasting recovery and avoid uncomfortable physical withdrawal symptoms that can include diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, blood pressure changes, changes in heart rate, muscle and bone pain, sweating, agitation, and insomnia. These can be managed if under the proper care of a medical professional.

Recover From Opiate Addiction in Massachusetts

Opiate addiction is a life threatening monster, and getting proper help can be vital to successfully recovering. If you or a loved one struggle with opiates, The Healing Center can help. Our on staff professionals can help you through the crucial beginning stages of recovering from opiate addiction, and guide you through to a path of healing. Call us today and start your journey of recovery!