Facts About Opioid Addiction

An opioid (sometimes called narcotic) is a substance that is derived from the opium poppy plant.  There are also synthetic (man-made from the lab) opioids such as fentanyl and illegal street opioids such as heroin. It is a class of drugs that include the illicit drug heroin as well as the licit prescription pain relievers – oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine, morphine, fentanyl and others.  Opioids are chemically related and interact with opioid receptors on nerve cells in the brain and nervous system to produce pleasurable effects and relieve pain.

Statistics shows that:

  • Nearly 500,000 people died from overdoses involving any opioid, including prescription and illicit opioids, from 1999-2019 – CDC.
  • Over 70% of drug overdose deaths in 2019 involved an opioid – CDC.
  • Overdose deaths involving opioids, including prescription opioids, heroin, and synthetic opioids (like fentanyl), have increased over six times since 1999 – CDC.
  • Overdoses involving opioids killed nearly 50,000 people in 2019, and nearly 73% of those deaths involved synthetic opioids – CDC.
  • 3,900 people will use a prescription opioid outside of legitimate medical purposes and supervision.  These prescription drugs are many times obtained through theft, fraud, or otherwise diverted from people with legitimate, medically-appropriate prescriptions – DOJ.
  • The change in heroin administration routes to pill form, coupled with the rise of counterfeit pills often containing heroin, fentanyl, and fentanyl derivatives, has caused unwitting users who purchase drugs on the street to overdose and die in record numbers – DOJ.
  • Heroin has invaded rural towns and urban cities alike and does not discriminate among socio-economic lines, race, age, or gender – DOJ.
  • Around 20% to 30% of prescription opioid users could be abusing them.
  • Up to 12% of those abusing prescription opioids could develop an addiction.
  • Women are more likely to have chronic pain, be prescribed prescription pain relievers, be given higher doses, and use them for longer time periods than men. Women may become dependent on prescription pain relievers more quickly than men – ASAM.
  • 48,000 women died of prescription pain reliever overdoses between 1999 and 2010 – ASAM.
  • Prescription pain reliever overdose deaths among women increased more than 400% from 1999 to 2010, compared to 237% among men – ASAM.

Types of Opioids

Prescription opioids include:

  • Oxycodone (Oxycontin),
  • Hydrocodone (Vicodin),
  • Codeine,
  • Fentanyl, and
  • Morphine

Illegal opioids include:

  • Heroin, and
  • Street Fentanyl

Signs and Symptoms of Opioid Addiction

Some signs to look out for include:

  • Irritable, nervous and/or cranky,
  • Mixing in with different groups and changing friend circles,
  • Avoiding time with family and friends, preferring to spend time alone in isolation,
  • Being very tired and sad, and other signs that might be depression,
  • Lack of hygiene, not bathing or brushing teeth,
  • Loss of interest in activities, things that used to interest them no longer do,
  • Change in eating habits, either increased or decreased, and
  • Quick mood changes.

Effects of Opioid Addiction

Several short-term effects of opioid addiction may produce:

  • Inability to talk,
  • Blue skin color and dark-colored lips,
  • Drowsiness,
  • Slow, shallow breathing,
  • Constipation,
  • Unconsciousness,
  • Nausea, vomiting or making gurgling noises, and
  • Coma

Several Long-term effects of opioid addiction may produce:

  • Opioids use can affect liver.  They cause liver damage, especially if you use them along with acetaminophen,
  • Brain damage due to hypoxia, due to respiratory depression,
  • Opioids are addictive.  When taken for a long time, the body gets used to the drug and may begin to need more and more to feel the effects,
  • Difficulty in sleeping and insomnia,
  • Nausea; diarrhea,
  • Hot and/or cold flushes,
  • Muscle twitches and cramp, sometimes severe,
  • High levels of anxiety and agitation,
  • Depression, often severe and can be long lasting, even after recovering from addiction, and
  • Abdominal distention and bloating.

Addiction to any substance is a serious problem.  If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, contact us.