What is Opioid Addiction?

What is opioid addiction, and what are its effects? Read on to learn about opioid addiction, causes, risk factors, and treatment options.

Understanding Opioid Addiction

Any person that takes opioids is at the risk of developing an opioid use disorder. An individual’s personal history and frequency of use play a role in opioid use disorder. However, it’s difficult to predict a person’s vulnerability to addiction at the initial stages of intake.



Even though opioids are prescription medications, continuous intake can damage the brain. Over time, individuals can easily develop significant health, social, and economic challenges. Please keep reading to know more about opioid drug addiction.

What is Opioid Addiction?

Opioid use disorder describes a state where an individual feels a compulsive and powerful urge to continue opioid intake. The urge typically extends to periods when such individuals no longer need to continue consuming the substance. Opioids are a class of substances that significantly affect the nervous system to produce feelings of pain relief and pleasure.

How Does Opioid Dependence Develop?

When a person takes opioids, there’s a tendency to experience a change in brain chemistry. These changes can cause drug tolerance, which means doses of opioid addiction medication may need to be increased. Due to the effects of opioids on the brain, they have a high potential for resulting in addiction. Sudden discontinuation in its intake can also cause withdrawal symptoms like anxiety and muscle cramping.

Different Types of Opioids

There are two major categories of the types of opioids. These include the following:

Illegal Opioids

Examples of illegal opioids include heroin and fentanyl. Statistics show that over 28 percent of all overdoses due to opioids in 2019 involved intake of heroin. Illegally manufactured and distributed fentanyl is also rising in various U.S states.

Prescribed Opioids

These types of opioids include oxycodone, hydrocodone, methadone, and morphine. These drugs are for the treatment of moderate to severe pain, resulting in serious side effects.

Opioid Addiction Statistics

According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), an estimate of 10.1 million individuals between ages of 12 or older misused opioids. These statistics were valid in 2019 for the year before. A specific number of 9.7 million people misused their intake of prescription pain relievers, while 745,000 continued the intake of heroin.

Conditions That Opioids Are Prescribed For

Doctors typically prescribe opioids as a pain reliever, but other conditions may require intake of the substance. Some of these include:

Opioid Addiction Causes and Risk Factors

Drug tolerance due to opioid intake causes addiction. Individuals develop a dependence such that they experience withdrawal symptoms if they discontinue the substance’s intake. There are certain causes of opioid addiction or risk factors of opioid abuse. Here are some to note:
Opioid Addiction

Family History

Opioid abuse is prominent in certain families and typically involves genetic predisposition. Individuals who have a blood relative with a history of opioid abuse are at a greater risk of developing an addiction.

Mental Health

People experiencing a mental health disorder like attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or depression have a higher tendency to develop an addiction. Many times, intake of substances like opioids seems to be a way out of coping with such painful feelings.

Biological Factors

Some biological factors may also contribute to opioid abuse. For instance, the intake of opioids at an early stage can cause changes in brain development. It may also increase the chances of addiction.

Other Factors

Other risk factors that may cause opioid use disorder include peer pressure and lack of family involvement. Many young adults begin to misuse the intake of opioids due to difficult family situations or a lack of bond with siblings or parents.

Signs and Symptoms of Opioid Addiction

Constant intake of opioids leading to addiction may call for early opioid addiction rehab. Consult a mental health professional if these signs of opioid addiction are visible:

Physical Symptoms of Opioid Addiction

Major physical signs of opioid addiction include:

Psychological Symptoms of Opioid Addiction

Some noticeable psychological opioid addiction symptoms include:

Other Symptoms of Opioid Addiction

Some other signs of an opioid use disorder, which include mood and behavioral symptoms, include:

Side Effects of Opioid Addiction

Continuous intake of opioids proves to cause certain side effects depending on the frequency and length of use. Here’s what to know:

Short-Term Effects of Opioid Addiction

Some of the short-term side effects of opioid addiction include:

Long-Term Effects of Opioid Addiction

In the long run, here are some of the side effects that occur:

Opioid Overdose

opioid addiction
Intake of too many opioids can cause an overdose, which can be life-threatening. Some of the noticeable symptoms of opioid overdose include:

Treatment of Opioid Addiction

There are various opioid addiction treatment options. Some of the significant ones include:

Medication-Assisted Treatment for Opioid Addiction

Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) for opioid use disorder involves using certain substances in combination with behavioral therapies in an opioid addiction rehab program. Three major FDA-approved drugs for opioid dependence include naltrexone, methadone, and buprenorphine. All three opioid addiction treatment medications are useful in combination with counseling and psychosocial support.

Opioid Addiction Support Groups

Support groups are a helpful opioid addiction treatment program. These groups usually include individuals facing similar challenges, especially substance use disorder. These individuals come together to share their struggles without the fear of judgment.



With support groups as a treatment for opioid addiction, learning from other people and knowing more about their recovery journey is easier. Individuals typically share how they manage cravings, triggers, or negative thoughts.

Get Help at Alta Centers

Alta Centers provides suitable opioid addiction treatment programs for individuals experiencing opioid drug addiction. We understand that admission to a treatment center is an imperative and life-changing decision. Hence, we provide support throughout the opioid detox and rehab process, from the first point of contact to aftercare. Contact us today for a supportive treatment procedure.

Questions About Treatment?

Our knowledgeable team is ready to discuss your situation and options. Your call is confidential with no obligation required.

What is an Intervention?

In a situation involving substance use disorder, planning an intervention may be the best, and safest, option to help someone who is living with an addiction. So, what does intervention mean? An intervention is a strategically planned process of confronting the person who is living with addiction about the consequences of their actions while simultaneously encouraging them to accept help and treatment for their addiction.1

The key feature of an intercession is that while it can be an immensely helpful option in convincing a person that they should seek treatment, it should not be done solely by friends and family members. Without the aid of a specialist, or someone who is equally trained in the process of interventions, an intervention may do more harm than good.

An intervention specialist is someone that has been professionally trained in helping people break free from their addictions. They can help a person without judgment, emotions, or blame to understand how their actions are negatively impacting themselves and those that they care about.

When performed properly, without judgment or pressure, and with the aid of a qualified intercession specialist, 80-90% of substance use interventions are successful in convincing the patient to seek help.

Early Intervention

Treatment is more effective the earlier that it begins for an alcohol or drug abuse disorder. As with any other health condition, early intervention and treatment can prevent more significant problems further on in life.

Unfortunately, in many cases, an alcohol addiction intervention or a drug abuse intercession does not take place until most other options have been exhausted. It can be difficult for those struggling with a substance use disorder to realize or admit that they need help.

It often takes a life-altering event, such as a divorce, loss of employment, or a housing crisis for a person to be willing to seek treatment. Because early
alcohol and drug intercession can be so beneficial, first responders must be able to recognize the symptoms of substance abuse.3

What is a Nursing Intervention?

Nursing interventions are often the first time a patient will experience care for their disorder. It takes place when someone enters a care facility such as a clinic or hospital for a condition that may or may not be caused or exacerbated by their substance use disorder.

After initial evaluation and stabilization, a nurse will take action to help their patient by suggesting healthy physical or emotional coping mechanisms for a patient that wants to quit using the substance that they are addicted to. The nurse will also be able to offer education and information to the patient about other treatment facilities or care providers that can help them on their road to recovery.

Alcohol Intervention

A Further Look at Interventions

Nearly 50% of adults in America regularly drink alcohol, and it is believed that as many as 25% of those Americans have an alcohol addiction, most commonly in the form of binge drinking. In many situations, once a person with an alcohol use disorder realizes the way that alcohol is negatively impacting their life, they can reduce the amount that they drink, or even quit entirely, without outside assistance.

However, some people that have an alcohol use disorder are unable to see how their addiction is negatively affecting them. In this situation, an alcohol use intercession can be extremely beneficial. Some of the benefits of interventions include:

Drug Intervention

A Further Look at Interventions

Over nineteen million adults struggle with a drug abuse disorder and of those, nearly 74% also struggle with a co-existing alcohol abuse disorder. Drug abuse and addiction can be a much harder disorder to recover from than alcohol addiction, particularly due to the high rate of co-use that most people with a substance use disorder experience.

In many cases, suddenly stopping the use of an illicit substance can be just as harmful, if not more so than using the substance itself. The side effects and withdrawal symptoms that a person may experience when they decide to stop using a substance can be severe and at times life-threatening.

Luckily, substance use is a highly treatable disorder and several medications can help a person wean off of illicit substances in a safe, sustained, and monitored manner. A drug abuse intervention can help someone realize that they have options and that they can recover safely and healthily.

Questions About Treatment?

Our knowledgeable team is ready to discuss your situation and options. Your call is confidential with no obligation required.