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Prescription opioid addiction is a growing problem in the United States. Prescription opioid addiction can lead to severe health and social consequences if not treated appropriately and quickly. In this post, we will discuss what prescription opioids are, how they affect the body and treatment options for those who suffer from this addiction.

What are prescription opioids, and how do they work?

Prescription opioids are pain medications that contain a compound similar to opium, which comes from poppies. These drugs include hydrocodone (Vicodin), oxycodone (OxyContin and Percocet), morphine sulfate, Buprenorphine/Naltrexone hydrochloride, fentanyl citrate, codeine phosphate hemihydrate, and others. Prescription opioids work by changing the way messages of pain are sent to the brain or spinal cord. They also change how our body responds to pain signals when they arrive at their destination within the central nervous system. This is why these prescription opioid drugs can be effective for short-term postoperative care and treatment for cancer patients suffering from highly unrelenting chronic pain.1

The history behind America’s opioid epidemic from its roots as a painkiller to a national crisis today.

The history of prescription opioid addiction began in the 1990s when doctors began prescribing more opioids to patients with chronic pain problems. In 1995, pharmaceutical companies introduced new formulations of existing drugs such as oxycodone and hydrocodone that were supposedly designed to be less prone to abuse than previous medications. However, this led to a wave of drug misuse by crushing or snorting them. Despite these early warnings about their addictive nature, prescriptions for opioids continued increasing until they reached an all-time high in 20122 Unfortunately, today’s opioid epidemic can be traced to irresponsible marketing practices from major pharmaceutical companies that used misleading information on safety and efficacy. At the same time, they were also downplaying risks associated with long-term use, which ultimately led people to believe that they were safer than other pain medications.

What is the purpose of Opioids?

Opioids are used to treat a range of conditions, including pain, coughs, and diarrhea. However, opioids were most commonly prescribed to treat chronic or severe cancer pain resistant to non-opioid treatments. Opioids have been around since ancient times when people chewed on opium poppies to experience their euphoric effects and relieve their suffering from painful experiences such as injury, childbirth, and sicknesses.

Popular types of opioids

Many types of opioids are available as prescription drugs. The following lists a few examples:


Codeine a weaker opioid used to treat mild pain and coughing symptoms, especially after surgery or dental work. Codeine is often used together with other pain medications like acetaminophen to increase its effectiveness.Codeine addiction signs and symptoms:If you become addicted to codeine, it means that your body has become dependent on the drug to function normally; without it, withdrawal symptoms will appear. These include sweating or itching, feeling sickened by stomach cramps, nausea, diarrhea, irritability, muscle aches, bone aches, and fever chills. If not appropriately treated, opioid withdrawals can be fatal due to dangerous complications such as seizures induced hallucinations, high blood pressure problems breathing, cardiovascular collapse, and death. People who suffer from chronic conditions should seek medical advice before stopping their use of opioids suddenly.


Oxycodone is a commonly prescribed opioid. It works by binding itself to the brain’s opiate receptors responsible for feelings of well-being, pain relief, and suppression of cough reflexes. It has been associated with euphoric effects similar to that of heroin when used recreationally or in higher doses than recommended.Oxycodone addiction signs and symptoms:Some signs of addiction can include having strong cravings for the drug, using it more often than intended, and neglecting to fulfill responsibilities at work or school.

Hydrocodone (Vicodin)

Hydrocodone is a prescription opioid that is sometimes mixed with acetaminophen to treat moderate to severe pain. It works by stopping the brain from receiving messages sent during intense or painful experiences.Hydrocodone addiction signs and symptoms:People who are addicted to hydrocodone often experience insomnia, depression, and anxiety. They may also have strong cravings for the drug due to its euphoric effects.


Fentanyl is manufactured as transdermal patches, which the FDA has approved for treating severe ongoing pain and breakthrough cancer pain in adults.Fentanyl addiction signs and symptoms:Fentanyl addiction is possible when individuals are using it for nonmedical reasons. This can include chewing on the patch, crushing and snorting the contents of a patch, or dissolving in water then injecting or ingesting it orally.


Morphine is an opioid analgesic often used to treat moderate to severe pain. It is also commonly administered before surgery or during the postoperative recovery period. Morphine is used to treat acute and severe pain.Morphine addiction signs and symptoms:Signs of addiction may include having strong cravings for the drug, using it more often than intended, and neglecting to fulfill responsibilities at school or work.


Buprenorphine/Naltrexone is a synthetic drug that reduces withdrawal symptoms associated with quitting heroin use. Buprenorphine/Naltrexone does this while maintaining its therapeutic effects on relieving chronic, noncancerous neuropathic, and musculoskeletal pains. A common side effect of Buprenorphine/Naltrexone is constipation due to its slowing of intestinal motility.Buprenorphine/Naltrexone addictions signs and symptoms:Buprenorphine/Naltrexone can be prescribed as a substitution therapy for those recovering from opiate addiction. Buprenorphine/Naltrexone withdrawal symptoms occur when an individual stops taking the drug and may include restlessness, muscle aches, insomnia, diarrhea, vomiting, or cold flashes with goosebumps.


Heroin is an opioid drug that is derived from morphine, a derivative of the opium poppy plant. It works by binding to the brain’s opioid receptors, responsible for feelings of well-being, pain relief, and suppression of cough reflexes. This drug has been associated with euphoric effects similar to morphine when used recreationally or in higher doses than recommended.Heroin addiction signs and symptoms:Signs of heroin addiction include hostility, aggression, dilated pupils, anxiety, and respiratory depression.

Opioid addiction is a complex issue.

Many factors influence opioid addiction. The following are some of the risk factors that may result in opioid addiction:

Genetic predisposition

Genetic predisposition increases a person’s susceptibility to developing an opioid addiction. If your parents or close relatives have been addicted to opioids, you are more likely to become dependent on the drug.

Lack of impulse control and sensation-seeking behavior

Impulse control disorders involve a lack of ability to control impulses that may harm oneself. Without proper treatment, this disorder will worsen over time.

Mental illness

Mental illnesses such as depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and anxiety will also increase the risk of opioid addiction.

Social environment

The social environment is another risk factor that may increase the likelihood of developing opioid addiction. People who live in an area where drug use is common are more likely to become addicted.

Physical dependence

Physical dependence can happen when a person uses opioid drugs regularly over an extended period. If the drug is suddenly stopped, withdrawal symptoms will occur, which may lead to addiction.

Opioid use in the family or home environment.

Opioid use in the family or home environment may increase a child’s risk of addiction. If older siblings or parents abuse opioids, this may influence younger children to follow suit.

Easy access to opioids in a community where they are used illicitly or improperly

Easy access to opioids in a community where they are used illicitly or improperly will increase the risk of opioid addiction.

Signs of opioid addiction.

Opioid addiction can be challenging to recognize because the symptoms may vary from person to person. These are common signs that you or a loved one is addicted:

Mood swings

Mood swings and irritability are some of the early signs that someone is addicted to opioids. Erratic behavior, moodiness, and other personality changes may also be present.

Lack of interest in hobbies or activities one used to enjoy regularly doing.

A person who has developed an addiction will lose interest in activities they once enjoyed, such as sports, playing with friends and family members, and attending church functions.

Changes in behavior

Family members and friends often observe behavioral changes before opioid addiction can be diagnosed. They need to keep an eye on their friend’s behaviors, attitudes, thoughts, emotions, and activities. They should also monitor whether they have been having financial problems with work or school performance changing significantly. If any of these occur along with increased drug use, it would indicate opioid dependence.

Physical effects

The physical effects of opioid abuse will become apparent as time goes on if left untreated. These include constipation, nausea/vomiting, dry mouth, itching, thinning of the skin, and muscle aches.

Drug-related paraphernalia

Physical symptoms are not always present in opioid addiction, so it is essential to monitor drug-related paraphernalia. These may include:

  • Burnt spoons or aluminum foil with burn marks
  • Cotton balls used for filtering drugs before injection
  • Hypodermic needles
  • Syringes
  • Prescription bottles from other people’s medications (i.e., Roxicet, Percocet)

If any of these items can be found in your home or on you, this would indicate opioid abuse.

The effects of opioid use.

Opioid use can be incredibly destructive to both your physical and mental health. Even one-time usage of these drugs could lead to addiction, overdose, or death. Some other effects include:


Opioid use can cause sedation and drowsiness, increasing the risk of accidents such as motor vehicle crashes.

Impaired decision-making ability

People who abuse opioids will often make poor decisions that lead to negative consequences for themselves and others around them.

Reduced breathing rate (respiratory depression)

Taking opioid drugs like Vicodin or Percocet may suppress your respiratory drive, causing you to take shallow breaths. When used in combination with other depressants, such as alcohol, this effect is increased exponentially, resulting in slow but dangerously reduced respiration rates.

Nausea and vomiting

Nausea and vomiting are two common side effects that often occur when someone is addicted to opioids. These may cause dehydration which affects the entire body negatively.

High blood pressure

Opioid use can cause high blood pressure, which could lead to organ damage or even death.

Respiratory problems

Opioid abuse may also affect the respiratory system leading to breathing difficulties, slow heart rate, and other serious medical complications.

Symptoms of opioid withdrawal

If you or a loved one has been abusing opioids, opioid withdrawal symptoms may occur if the drug is stopped suddenly. Symptoms of withdrawal include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Sweating
  • Feelings of uneasiness/restlessness
  • Trouble sleeping
  • muscle spasms/cramps
  • Heart palpitations
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Muscle aches
  • Increased tearing
  • Nasal congestion
  • Runny nose
  • Diaphoresis: profuse sweating
  • Involuntary rapid eye movement
  • Weight loss
  • Anxiety and Depression

The physical effects of opioid withdrawal

The physical effects of opioid withdrawals are often the most uncomfortable part for someone addicted to opioids. Symptoms including nausea, vomiting, profuse sweating or diaphoresis, and diarrhea may make you feel like you will never be clean again. You might even have trouble sleeping which could lead to feelings of weakness and tiredness throughout the day.

Mental and emotional impacts of opioid withdrawal

Psychologically, opioid withdrawals can have a terrible impact on you as well. Being inactive withdrawal may cause anxiety and depression, leading to negative thoughts that could be fatal if untreated. If you experience any of these symptoms, the best course is to seek medical attention from an addiction specialist who can help with detoxification and treatment.

How long does it take to recover from opioid addiction?

Recovering from opioid addiction takes a significant amount of time and commitment. The best results occur when you have treatment personalized to each individual, but most people can expect the process of recovery to take at least six months. Recovery may involve going through several different types of therapy, such as group counseling, individual therapy, or cognitive behavioral therapy. These treatments help with detoxification. They also often focus on identifying any underlying issues that lead to your substance abuse in the first place. This will often include childhood trauma, mental illness, or anxiety disorders, which further complicate withdrawal symptoms and increase depression during treatment. Treatment centers offer a safe environment where support groups are available for encouragement while undergoing treatment and making positive lifestyle changes after drug rehabilitation. Aftercare programs are also available at many treatment centers for an extended period after completing the primary substance abuse program. These follow-up programs often offer continued counseling and group sessions to help maintain sobriety while continuing on your path towards a healthy lifestyle.

Why is there a stigma around addiction recovery programs, and what can be done about it?

There is a stigma surrounding addiction recovery programs. Still, many people are unaware that their opinions of these treatments are often based on the experiences they have heard from others instead of personal experience. In the past, many addiction recovery programs were not as effective as they are now. This is because there was a lack of understanding about how addiction affects those who suffer from it. In addition to this, people often have misconceptions about what treatment entails and why someone would need support during their recovery process. The truth is that getting clean can be very difficult for some people. Still, with the right tools and willpower, anyone can live a healthy lifestyle without being controlled by drug or alcohol cravings and maintain sobriety throughout their lives.

Treatment for opioid addiction

Treatment may not always be easy, but it is worth the effort. If you or a loved one suffers from opioid addiction, there are many different types of treatment options available to you. Some options include:

Behavioral therapy

A common treatment for opioid addiction is behavioral therapy. Behavioral therapists are trained to help you learn how to interact with others in a healthy way that promotes sobriety while avoiding relapse triggers that you may encounter on your path towards recovery.

Intensive Outpatient Programs

Intensive outpatient programs offer an alternative option when it comes to substance abuse treatment. They provide many similar benefits as traditional rehab centers. Still, they allow participants more freedom and flexibility throughout their day-to-day lives than if they were admitted into a residential program. This type of program typically is for those with less severe addiction cases that don’t require detoxification.

Medication-assisted treatment with Buprenorphine/Naltrexone or buprenorphine

Medication-assisted treatment can help with opioid cravings and withdrawal symptoms. Buprenorphine/Naltrexone is a long-acting medication that attaches to the same receptors in your brain as heroin or other opioids. While Buprenorphine/Naltrexone can have many of the same effects as these drugs, it also blocks you from experiencing high from opioids.

Residential treatment

Residential treatment is a program where individuals live at the treatment center for an extended period. This type of rehab typically lasts about 30, 60, or 90 days and provides you with everything you need during this period.


Individual and group therapy typically occurs at rehab centers, but you may also need to meet with a counselor outside of the center.Counseling helps patients learn how to cope with their feelings in a healthy way that does not involve drug or alcohol use. Those who suffer from opioid addiction must understand why they turned to drugs in the first place so that they do not fall into old habits when dealing with difficult emotions after treatment. Counseling often focuses on these types of underlying issues, which include building confidence and self-esteem, among other things.

Rehab centers that offer detoxification services

Detoxification is the process of letting your body eliminate all traces of opioid drugs safely. While this may seem like it would be an easy thing, detoxing from opioids can cause severe withdrawal symptoms that are difficult for some people to cope with on their own.

What you can do if your loved one is addicted to prescription opioids

If you know of a family member or friend who suffers from opioid addiction, there are many things that you can do. It’s essential to understand the dynamics behind this type of disease so that when your loved one finally decides they want help in overcoming their addiction, you will know how best to support them throughout the process.Additional ways you can help are:

  • Find out what types of treatment they may want to try and provide that information or help find it for them.
  • Take an active role in their process of recovery
  • Remove all substances from your home that they could use to get high
  • Offer them support when needed and be understanding during difficult times.
  • Remember, opioid addiction is a chronic disease, and it takes time for the body to heal. You mustn’t give up on your loved one because relapse is common even after multiple attempts at treatment.

Tips for Recovering from Addiction and Living a Healthy Life Again

The road to recovery is not easy and requires a lot of hard work. But it’s vital that you know there are ways you can make this journey easier for yourself.

  • Find support from your friends and family who understand what you’re going through. You may also want to consider attending 12 step meetings or joining a support group for those in similar situations as yours.
  • Withdrawal symptoms often include depression, anxiety, irritability, insomnia, fatigue, and more, so having other people around who have been where you are now can help with these feelings.
  • Remember that addiction changes the brain, which means it will take some time before your cravings disappear entirely, even after treatment. While everyone recovers at their own pace, setting realistic expectations and avoiding stress are critical to keeping cravings at bay.
  • Even after treatment, you must take time for yourself and do things that make you happy. This can include spending time with friends or family members who don’t drink alcohol or use drugs, exercising regularly, starting a hobby, etc. Just remember not to overdo it because overexertion could trigger stress levels which may lead to relapse.


Opioid addiction is a severe condition that can cause many problems in an individual’s life. However, it’s possible to overcome this disease and have a healthy, happy life again if you seek help from professionals, take advantage of the support offered by loved ones, and work hard at overcoming your cravings before they consume you once more. We hope that this article has helped you on your journey to recovery. If you would like to speak to a healthcare professional about Opioid addiction treatments, feel free to contact us at (855) 491-7694 or visit our contact us page at the link here.

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