Recognizing the Signs and Symptoms of Opioid Abuse

February 10, 2023

Written By: Buena Vista Recovery

Opioids are a dangerous and highly addictive class of drugs that can affect a person’s body, mind, and life in a variety of ways. There is no single way an individual may be exposed to these drugs, nor will each individual experience their effects the same way. Identifying the signs and symptoms of opioid abuse in oneself or a loved one is the first step in overcoming opioid addiction. Further, recognizing these signs is necessary to begin the journey through professional treatment and healing. 

What Are Opioids?

Opioid abuse describes an unhealthy relationship with an entire class of drugs and is not limited to a single substance. These various substances can all have their own effects, symptoms, method of administration, and more, further complicating the journey to healing and demanding that each individual personalize their recovery to their unique needs and goals. 

Opioids are depressants that slow down the body’s natural processes while bringing feelings of euphoria or elation. While some are used to treat severe pain under medically-prescribed supervision, there are also many commonly used illicit opioids. From morphine and oxycodone to heroin and the incredibly potent and dangerous fentanyl, opioids come in a variety of forms. 

While some of these drugs are derived naturally, such as heroin, others are synthetic or semi-synthetic. There is no type of opioid that is completely “safe,” with illicit, synthetic opioids often being cut into other street substances or created without a person fully knowing what is in the drugs they are using. This can result in many people becoming addicted to opioids inadvertently or experiencing more intense effects than intended, leading to dangerous or life-threatening consequences. 

The Dangers of Opioids

For those engaging with illicit opioids, addiction can manifest quickly. However, addiction is also possible even if an individual is engaging with these drugs through a doctor’s prescription and using them as intended. Because of their addictive nature, being cognizant and informed about the signs and symptoms of opioid addiction is paramount, especially due to their dangerous and lasting effects. 

Left unaddressed, the use of opioids can have devastating effects. Over 68,000 deaths resulted from opioid overdose in 2020 alone, occurring at a rate about 38% higher than in 2019. However, this does not account for the number of people who experienced the adverse and dangerous effects of opioids in other ways, such as the damage they can do to relationships, professional lives, and physical and mental health. Recognizing the signs and symptoms of opioid use is the first step toward addressing the prevalence of opioids. 

Identifying Opioid Abuse

While no two journeys with opioid use and addiction will be the same, there are some common signs and symptoms of opioid abuse that can inform the need for professional treatment. Identifying both the immediate effects of opioid abuse as well as their long-term effects is crucial for opening a dialogue about professional treatment and recovery. 

Immediate Physical Effects

Identifying the immediate effects of opioid use can be paramount for understanding its effects. Those engaging with opioids may experience the following:

  • Feelings of euphoria
  • Slowed reaction time
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Sleepiness/lethargy
  • Compromised motor skills
  • Slowed breathing

Many of these effects can develop into further dangers, with symptoms like slowed breathing potentially developing into hypoxia and resulting in insufficient oxygen being circulated throughout the body. However, other symptoms can affect an individual in other ways, such as affecting an individual’s ability to drive or other dangerous behaviors that can result in DUI charges, injury, or worse. 

Long-Lasting Behavioral Effects

Opioid abuse and addiction can have a myriad of effects beyond their immediate symptoms. Those engaging with opioids of any kind may develop an addiction, further impacting relationships, professional employment and performance, mood, and more. Some of these symptoms include:

  • Difficulty regulating mood or mood swings
  • Pervasive feelings of frustration, anger, or depression when unable to engage with opioids or when their effects subside
  • Inconsistent workplace attendance or persistently calling in late/using sick days
  • Compromised workplace or academic performance
  • Self-isolation tendencies, such as unwillingness to engage in social situations
  • Adopting a more secretive lifestyle by locking doors or leaving without providing any information 
  • Wearing out-of-season clothes
  • Compromised self-care and hygiene routines or recognizing the deterioration of physical health
  • Disinterest in previous hobbies or interests
  • Sudden and unexpected onset of financial challenges

Identifying any of these symptoms, especially if they are recurring or consistent, could indicate the need for professional treatment to enact an effective and personalized recovery plan.

Pursuing Professional Treatment

There is nothing easy about overcoming the dangerous effects of opioids. However, recovery is always possible with professional, educated support. Medical detox programs and a comprehensive community dedicated to the continuum of care are necessary to address the intense effects opioids have on the body and mind. This is in addition to coping with any prevalent withdrawal symptoms that may accompany the cessation of opioid use. Identifying the signs of opioid use is just the first step in a journey, but a sober future is always possible. 

Opioids can have devastating and lasting effects, and identifying the signs and symptoms of opioid use is just the beginning of a journey to sobriety. However, recovery is always possible. We at Buena Vista Recovery are committed to not only helping you and your family identify the signs and symptoms of opioid use but are equipped to create a comprehensive plan to overcome the use of these substances and the ways they can impact your life. Without our medical detox and comfortable and luxurious facility, coupled with our caring, trained professionals and supportive atmosphere of peers, we can help you overcome the use of opioids for a healthier life. For more information, call us today at (480) 741-9414 or verify your insurance here.