Causes & Symptoms of Opioid Addiction

Since 1957, Azure Acres Treatment Center has given hope to individuals struggling with opioid addiction and its lasting effects. Azure Acres provides residents high-quality alcohol and drug abuse treatment near Santa Rosa, California.

Understanding Opioid Addiction

Learn about opioid addiction

Opioids are a group of substances that includes illicit drugs like heroin and legal drugs like prescription painkillers (including morphine, codeine, OxyContin, fentanyl, and Vicodin). Opioids are effective in working as central nervous system depressants and can numb an individual’s pain all while producing feelings of relaxation and wellbeing. Because of these properties, opioid prescription medications are often supplied to those who require relief from moderate to severe chronic or acute physical pain. However, while these substances can be very helpful for those who use it medically, they can also become highly addictive and can trap individuals in a pattern of substance abuse. In addition, the pleasurable feelings linked to the abuse of opioids can cause some people to start taking them without a medical need to do so. These substances, again, are tremendously addictive. Heroin, which is an illegal form of opioid, is just as addictive as prescription painkillers and can destroy all parts of an individual’s life if abuse begins.

When people start using opioids in ways that bring on disturbances in their overall, day-to-day functionality or in a way that causes serious upset to their wellbeing, they have likely developed opioid use disorder. When this occurs, individuals can find that they are consuming more of a prescription drug than planned or that they are taking it more frequently to obtain their desired effects. The abuse of opioids can have highly destructive effects on a person’s life. However those with opioid use disorder will likely have trouble overcoming their challenges on their own. With the proper treatment program, your loved one can end their addiction to opioids.


Opioid addiction statistics

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports that between 26 and 36 million people worldwide abuse opioids. Within the United States, over 2 million people battle with prescription opioid-related substance use disorders. The American Psychiatric Association (APA) states that the 12-month prevalence of opioid use disorders on the whole is estimated to be 0.37 percent of the adult population and 1.0 percent of the adolescent population.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and risk factors for opioid addiction

When considering the causes and risk factors that can lead individuals to developing opioid use disorder, it is important to note the following:

Genetic: Genetics play a major part in increasing an individual’s likelihood of developing opioid use disorder according to the APA. When there is a family history of opioid addiction and/or abuse, individuals are more susceptible to developing that same form of addiction than those who do not have the same genetic makeup within their families. In addition, specific personality traits and temperamental factors can add to the desire to abuse substances like prescription painkillers.

Risk Factors:

  • Suffering from a medical condition that requires receiving a prescription for opioid painkillers
  • Family history of opioid abuse and addiction
  • Having easy access to opioid substances
  • Family or personal history of other types of substance abuse and addiction
  • Possessing an impulsive temperament or a novelty-seeking personality

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of opioid addiction

The signs and symptoms that an individual who is abusing opioids might display will vary based on the type of opioid he or she is consuming as well as other factors. Some examples of the symptoms that an individual might show when he or she is suffering from opioid abuse can include:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Slurred speech
  • Visiting multiple doctors in order to receive multiple painkiller prescriptions
  • No longer fulfilling obligations at home
  • Demonstrating declining performance in work or school
  • Slurred speech
  • Withdrawing from family and friends
  • Using opioids in situations that are hazardous, such as driving while impaired
  • Compulsive and continued abuse of opioids
  • Partaking in drug-related crimes
  • No longer engaging in activities that were previously enjoyed or important to the individual

Physical symptoms:

  • Pupillary constriction
  • Psychomotor agitation
  • Insomnia
  • Psychomotor retardation
  • Drowsiness

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Attention and concentration difficulties
  • Cravings for continued opioid use
  • Impaired judgment
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Cravings for opioid use

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Depression
  • No longer being interested in things that one once enjoyed
  • Euphoria followed by apathy


Effects of opioid addiction

Abusing opioids can cause individuals to go through a variety of damaging effects, which can include the following:

  • Track marks or sclerosed veins in individuals who inject the drug
  • Increased risk for contracting infections like hepatitis C or HIV/AIDS
  • Heightened risk for suicide attempts and completed suicides
  • Suffering from anoxia, or a deficiency in the amount of oxygen that gets to the body’s tissues
  • Homelessness
  • Dry mouth and nose
  • Slowing of gastrointestinal activity / constipation
  • Financial instability
  • Legal problems due to engaging in criminal behavior
  • Impaired visual acuity
  • Relationship disturbances / marital strife / familial discord
  • Academic or occupational failure

Co-Occurring Disorders

Opioid addiction and co-occurring disorders

Individuals who battle with an opioid addiction tend to struggle with other mental health conditions as well. Some of the many co-occurring disorders that an individual can experience along with an opioid use disorder can include:

  • Alcohol use disorder
  • Stimulant use disorder
  • Persistent depressive disorder
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Other substance use disorders
  • Major depressive disorder

Withdrawal & Overdose

Effects of opioid withdrawal and overdose

Effects of opioid withdrawal: When individuals have continued to abuse opioids for a long period of time but then try to suddenly stop their use, they will go through a period of withdrawal, which can be painful. Some of the signs and effects that withdrawal can produce can include:

  • Uncontrollable flowing of tears
  • Excessive yawning
  • Insomnia
  • Dysphoric mood (feeling in a constant state of unease)
  • Sweating
  • Pupil dilation
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Fever
  • Diarrhea
  • Muscle aches

Effects of opioid overdose: When an individual consumes opioids to a point where his or her body is unable to properly metabolize them, he or she has risked overdose. When opioids are taken continuously, they cause individuals to build a tolerance, which means that their bodies require more of the substance in order for the same effects to be achieved. As individuals keep increasing the amount of opioids that they are putting into their bodies, the more likely they are to overdose. Signs and effects that can indicate that an individual is overdosing from opioid abuse can include:

  • Sudden sleepiness
  • Seizures
  • Shallow or labored breathing
  • Severe dizziness
  • Headache
  • Cold, clammy skin
  • Significantly slurred speech
  • Extreme confusion

Take a free online Assessment

An assessment is an important first step toward treatment of and recovery from addiction.

I have been in and out of treatment for years and could not remain sober for more than a couple years sometimes no more than 60 days. I attended groups and one on one therapy with my counselor there and this time something magical happened for me there. Azure Acres saved my life -- check this place out if you are looking for treatment!

– Former Patient