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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) explains that opiates refer to the natural version of opioids (e.g. morphine, codeine, and heroin), whereas opioids encompass substances that are fully natural (completely derived from the organic plant), semi-synthetic (plant being slightly altered in a lab) or fully synthetic (completely made by people with no presence of the organic plant). Opioids work by depressing the central nervous system and adjusting the amount of information surrounding pain that is relayed to various areas of one’s body, which in turn reduces one’s perception of pain. When ingested, opiates bind to the opioid receptors in one’s brain, spinal cord, gastrointestinal tract, and other organs in the body which regulate one’s breathing as well as the perception of pleasure and pain, thereby inducing a pain-relieving effect. Prescription opioid medications are considered controlled substances, and although they have highly addictive qualities, are safe when used for a short period of time, under direct supervision of a medical professional. 

Warning Signs and Symptoms

As is true with taking any type of medication there are associated risks, including risks for misuse, dependence, withdrawal, and overdose. To help you figure out of you are addicted to opiates, it is helpful to be aware of the warning signs and symptoms. The Mayo Clinic provides the following examples of warning signs that may be indicative of opioid addiction:

  • Regularly taking an opioid in a way not intended by the doctor who prescribed it, including taking more than the prescribed dose or taking the drug for the way it makes a person feel
  • Taking opioids “just in case,” even when not in pain
  • Mood changes, including excessive swings from elation to hostility
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Borrowing medication from other people or “losing” medications so that more prescriptions must be written
  • Poor decision-making, including putting himself or herself and others in danger
  • Does not participate in previously enjoyed pastimes
  • Doctor shopping (e.g., seeking prescriptions from more than one doctor)

Symptoms that may indicate an addiction to opiates could include the following examples, provided by Johns Hopkins Medicine

  • Uncontrollable opiate cravings
  • Drowsiness
  • Weight loss
  • Frequent flu-like symptoms
  • Decreased libido
  • Lack of hygiene
  • Slurred speech
  • Loss of coordination
  • Shaking
  • Excessive sweating

Everyone is different and each person struggling with opiate addiction has the propensity to exhibit a unique combination of signs and symptoms. The severity of symptoms will depend on several contributing factors (e.g., an individual’s personal health history, the length of time the individual abused opiates, the frequency of use, the dosage abused, if the individual mixed opiates with any other substances, etc.). If left untreated, habitual opiate abuse can lead to harmful short and long-term effects.  

For Information and Support 

If you are concerned for yourself or a loved one regarding substance abuse and/ or addiction, we recommend reaching out for help as soon as possible. If left untreated, substance abuse can result in long lasting and potentially life-threatening consequences. Keep in mind: you are not alone! There is an entire network of professionals that are available to help and support you and your loved one throughout the recovery process. The earlier you seek support, the sooner your loved one can return to a happy, healthy, and fulfilling life.

Please do not hesitate to reach out with any questions regarding our specific program at Haven House Addiction Treatment and/ or general substance abuse and/ or addiction treatment related information. Our highly trained staff is readily available to discuss how we might best be able to help you and your loved one. We can be reached by phone at 424-258-6792. You are also welcomed to contact anytime us via email at admissions@hhtxc.com. 

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