Opiates, which are also commonly called opioids, are a group of drugs that are used in the treatment of pain primarily. They get their name because they’re traditionally derived from opium, but the terms opiates and opioids are also used to describe synthetic drugs that act in a similar way.
Opioids are often prescribed by doctors for people who have chronic pain or following something like surgery. Unfortunately, these drugs are highly addictive, and even when taken as prescribed can lead to abuse and addiction.
Some of the common types of prescription opiates include:
Heroin is also classified as an opioid, and it’s made from morphine.
Opioids bind the opioid receptors in the user’s brain, as well as their spinal cord and other areas of their body and they reduce pain messages that are transmitted to the brain. This can lead not just to pain reduction, but also a feeling of euphoria and overall well-being.
The addiction to heroin, morphine and prescription drugs used for pain management has become an epidemic, with estimates of anywhere from 26 million to 36 million people believed to be abusing opioids. It’s also estimated that more than two million people in the U.S. had a substance abuse problem related to prescription opioids in 2012.
With the prevalence of opioid abuse, many people are searching for signs of opiate abuse, if they believe someone they love may have a problem. They frequently question how to tell if someone is on opiates, and what the warning signs of an opiate problem are.
When considering the signs of opiate abuse, it’s important to realize that while some people start out using these drugs recreationally, many do not. They begin using them as prescribed by their care provider, but as they quickly develop a tolerance, they start abusing the drugs.
Physical Signs of Opiate Addiction and Abuse
Some of the physical signs of opiate addiction and abuse may include:
Someone who is abusing opioids may be noticeably euphoric or extremely happy after taking a dose of a drug.
Once the sense of euphoria subsides, another physical symptom of opiate abuse is often a feeling of sedation or tiredness.
Pupils that are constricted.
Nodding off at random times or loss of consciousness.
Slower breathing rate.
When people are first starting to use opioids, they may feel itchy when they take them. They may also feel nauseous and even vomit.Physical symptoms of being on opioids can also include constipation, and slower reaction times and movements.With heroin, which is also an opioid, some of the short-term symptoms of use can include nausea, vomiting, slowed breathing, itching, and drowsiness. After someone takes heroin, they will usually get flushed skin, constricted pupils, and dry mouth. Also, as with other opioids, constipation is a symptom of use, which could lead the person addicted to heroin to start using laxatives.Regular use of heroin can lead to skin infections if it’s injected, as well as other kinds of infections and a suppressed immune system, so they may frequently get sick.
Behavioral and Lifestyle Signs of Opioid Abuse
For many people when they’re trying to determine whether or not someone is using opiates, it can be tough to spot physical symptoms. The person who’s abusing the drugs may be able to hide some of physical giveaways, but there are also general behavioral and lifestyle patterns and red flags that may be easier to recognize.When someone is addicted to opioids or any drug, they tend to withdraw from activities and commitments, such as school or work. They tend to lose interest in things they were previously interested in, and they may also start following different habits or routines, and hanging out with different people.There can be attitude changes such as irritability and angry outbursts, and other behavioral signs of being on opiates can include a sense of anxiety or nervousness, secrecy or dishonesty.Families and loved ones of people who are abusing opioids will tend to see that their loved ones start to put their focus elsewhere, which is often on figuring out ways to obtain more of the drug they’re abusing. This tends to lead the addict to become even more disconnected from their previous life. As well as neglecting school, work, and family commitments, people may start to neglect their physical appearance as well when they’re on opiates. As drug addiction to opioids progresses, many people will start taking extreme measures to obtain drugs. With opioids, the body is usually quick to develop a tolerance. This means the person abusing opioids will need continuously higher doses to get high. This will often lead them to steal pills from relatives or to take money to support their habit. Doctor shopping may occur, which means the person abusing drugs will start visiting many different physicians and creating fake symptoms in the hope of obtaining opioid prescriptions.Finally, when someone is on opiates, they may resort to extreme behavior, either because of how the drugs have altered their thinking or to support their habit. This can lead to problems with the law, including arrest.
Withdrawal Symptoms of Opioids
People who are on drugs, including opioids, can learn ways to hide their use, and it can be difficult for family members to know for sure whether or not they are actually abusing substances.While you may not notice physical symptoms of the actual use of the drug, another way to know if someone is on drugs is to look out for withdrawal symptoms. When someone is a prolonged user of opioids, they will experience withdrawal symptoms if they don’t take the drug, even for a short period.Withdrawal from opioids can seem similar to the flu and can include physical symptoms such as a headache, nausea, vomiting, sweating, fatigue and extreme anxiety.If you’re worried a loved one could be abusing opioids, it’s important to recognize both the physical and behavioral symptoms. These signs of opioid abuse can often be present very early on in use, and then they tend to worsen over time.If you’re aware of the side effects and symptoms of using opioids including heroin and prescription drugs, you can then start taking the necessary steps to help your loved one get into a treatment program.