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What Is Opioid Addiction?

Opioid addiction can negatively affect someone’s life in many ways. If you or someone you care about is struggling with this type of addiction, there are resources available that can help with treatment and recovery. 

Opioid Addiction Definition

This type of addiction is characterized by continued abuse of opioid drugs despite the negative effects due to its use. Opioid abuse generally involves continued long-term misuse of opioids at increasingly higher doses. Misuse or abuse of opioids for an extended amount of time can have many negative consequences on a person’s health and well-being, which is why proper treatment is vital.

Opioid Use Statistics

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, in 2019, approximately 10.1 million people misused or abused opioid drugs—9.7 million misused prescription opioids, while seven hundred forty-five thousand used heroin.1 Unfortunately, prescription opioid medications can often be misused and can be one of the leading causes of addiction.

What Does Opioid Addiction Look Like?

Addiction to opiods commonly starts with someone taking opioid drugs in a way that is not intended. Statistically, most opioid misuse begins with prescription medications for the euphoric high or calm feelings these drugs create when taken in high doses. Spotting addiction isn’t always easy, but there are common signs to look for to determine if someone is struggling.

Often, those addicted to opioids will take prescription medications for longer periods than intended and at high doses. They may also display changes in their behavior patterns like having odd sleeping patterns, seeming overly fatigued, having increased anxiety, or starting to act more secretive.

Causes of Opioid Addiction

There are many potential causes of opioid dependency and misuse. During treatment, it’s important to determine the causes of addiction and learn about how it affected a client’s life to help them work through all underlying and ongoing issues.

What Causes Opioid Addiction?

Many underlying issues in a person’s life can make them more likely to lean on substances as a way to self-medicate. Factors like mental health issues, daily stress, and past trauma can all be reasons why someone may turn to substance use as a coping mechanism. Other elements, such as someone’s environment, peer pressure, and genetic factors, can also contribute to addiction.

What Is the Difference Between Opioid Addiction and Dependence?

The main difference between opioid addiction and dependence is addiction refers to the behavior patterns of opioid misuse, where someone continually misuses or abuses opioid drugs for a long time. Opioid dependence refers to the physical and psychological symptoms that cause a person to feel like they cannot function normally without the substance.

Opioid Addiction Side Effects and Risk Factors

Short-term and long-term side effects of addiction may occur and can negatively impact someone’s life in many ways. Nevertheless, proper treatment can help manage side effects and get people on the path to recovery.

Short-Term Side Effects

Common short-term side effects of opioid addiction include:

  • Coma
  • Constipation
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Slowed breathing
  • Unconsciousness

Long-Term Side Effects

Common long-term side effects include:2

  • Addiction
  • Cold flashes
  • Developing a tolerance
  • Insomnia
  • Muscle and bone pain
  • Overdose
  • Physical dependence
  • Restlessness
  • Vomiting

Opioid Addiction Risk Factors

There are many risk factors that can result from an ongoing substance abuse, potentially causing long-term effects on one’s health and well-being. Common risk factors include:3

  • Decreased energy and strength
  • Heart problems
  • Liver problems
  • Mental health issues
  • Overdose
  • Respiratory conditions
  • Wasting syndrome (extreme weight loss)

Signs and Symptoms of Opioid Addiction

It is not always easy to determine the signs of opioid addiction, as it is common for individuals to obtain secrecy and act as though the problem does not exist. Regardless, there are some common signs that can help someone identify this issue.

Physical and Psychological Symptoms

Some of the common physical and psychological symptoms may include:

  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Irritability 
  • Lowered motivation
  • Mood swings
  • Shallow or slow breathing

Behavioral Symptoms

Common behavioral symptoms can include:

  • Abandoning responsibilities
  • Acting secretive
  • Changes in sleeping patterns
  • Having trouble at work or school
  • Irrational behavior
  • Poor decision making
  • Relationship problems

While this type of addiction is a difficult and serious problem, it is not impossible to overcome. Read on to learn more about the diagnosis and the various treatment options for this disorder.

Opioid Addiction Diagnosis and Treatment

Determining an opioid addiction diagnosis is crucial to recovery, as it helps specify the symptoms and severity. After receiving a diagnosis, treatment options and plans can be developed to ensure a safe and successful recovery.

How Is Opioid Addiction Diagnosed?

To identify and diagnose an opioid use disorder, physicians and treatment professionals will generally follow the DSM-5 protocols for the diagnosis of a substance use disorder. The DSM-5 contains a set of eleven different criteria that may determine a substance use disorder. If someone is experiencing at least two of the eleven criteria, they will usually be diagnosed with a substance use disorder.4 A healthcare or treatment provider may suggest various rehab options for opioid use disorder.

Treatment Options

There are many different treatment options available for recovery. Oftentimes, rehab for opioid addiction at a treatment center is a good option to ensure individuals get the best possible care and support during this difficult time.

Inpatient Treatment for Opioid Addiction
Inpatient treatment involves staying at a treatment center while clients detox, receive therapy, and create a long-term plan for success. Staying at a treatment center can be a beneficial option as it provides a positive support structure that helps facilitate the recovery process. Inpatient treatment helps clients feel as comfortable as possible during treatment with medical attention and support available around the clock.

Outpatient Treatment for Opioid Addiction
Outpatient treatment can be a good option for those whose addiction is less severe or who do not or cannot leave work or family responsibilities while receiving treatment. Thus, this form of treatment requires clients to go to a rehabilitation center at designated times throughout the week to receive treatment and work through a recovery program.

Drug Detoxification
When clients go to an opioid addiction treatment center, one of the first steps in the treatment process will be an opioid detox. Detoxification involves allowing the body to cleanse itself from the substance, often resulting in withdrawal symptoms ranging from uncomfortable to severe. Nevertheless, treatment professionals at a treatment center know how to properly manage withdrawal symptoms and keep clients as safe and comfortable as possible.

Addiction Therapies
Therapy is an important part of the addiction treatment process. Most treatment centers will have some form of therapy in place to help people work through underlying issues that may be contributing to the addiction, learn about coping mechanisms that can help with the daily stresses of life, and create a long-term plan for success.

Medication may be used during the treatment process to help ease withdrawal symptoms and prevent a relapse from occurring. Common opioid addiction medications are methadone, naltrexone, and buprenorphine. These medications have all been scientifically studied and proven to be effective for the treatment of opioid use disorder.

How to Help Someone With Opioid Addiction?

There are many ways to help individuals struggling with an addiction to opioids. First, talk to them and express a willingness to help. Next, look for treatment centers and other available resources in the area and get in touch. Multiple treatment centers will provide resources that can help properly provide help and support.

If treatment is refused, holding an intervention may also be a good idea to show them that their loved ones care about their well-being and want the best for them. Intervention resources are available that provide additional insights and ways to help.

Opioid Addiction Rehab at Great Oaks Recovery Center

If you or someone you know is struggling with an opioid addiction, Great Oaks Recovery Center can help. Great Oaks is comprised of an educated staff that can create and develop a treatment program tailored to fit each client’s needs. All treatment programs at Great Oaks Recovery Center are evidence-based and proven to provide the best possible results.

Our Opioid Addiction Rehab Programs

Great Oaks offers many great programs and resources to help with recovery from opioid addiction, including detoxification, residential treatment, family programs, and the ready to work program. All of these options can be customized to fit each client’s needs and help them achieve what they want from the treatment program.

Finding Help

If you are looking for help or would like to learn more about the recovery options available at Great Oaks, contact us today at (713) 769-0102. We will be happy to answer any additional questions you may have.



Questions About Treatment?

Our knowledgeable team is ready to discuss your situation and options. Your call is confidential with no obligation required.