Opioid Addiction Causes & Effects

The Rose provides opioid addiction treatment for women rooted in a science-based, research-supported clinical model to ensure a healthier life. Our treatment experience was designed by women for women, so you or your loved one receive a tailored experience.

Understanding Opioid Addiction

Learn about opioid addiction and substance abuse

Opioids are a category of substances that include prescription painkillers like fentanyl, codeine, Vicodin, OxyContin, and morphine, as well as illicit substances like heroin. Each of these substances, however, work similarly in depressing the central nervous system, which in turn causes the individual to feel an extreme rush of wellbeing and relaxation. Opioids are often prescribed to help reduce moderate to severe chronic or acute pain. However, while these drugs can be tremendously beneficial for those who require them medically, they can also be extremely addictive in ways that lead to the development of substance abuse. In addition, the euphoric feelings linked to opioid abuse can cause some individuals to begin abusing these medications. Heroin, an illicit opioid, is just as addictive and can cause an individual to suffer serious disturbances in her life.

When an individual starts using opioids in a manner that causes negative effects to begin developing within her life, she has likely developed an addiction, otherwise known as an opioid use disorder. When this occurs, individuals will likely find that they are consuming increasing amounts of their substance of choice or that they are taking the substance for longer than intended. The damage that opioid abuse causes to individuals and their lives can be severe. However, those who have developed opioid use disorder will likely also find that they are not capable of stopping their use without the proper treatment for opioid abuse.


Opioid addiction statistics

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), 26 to 36 million people worldwide abuse opioids. Within The United States alone, NIDA reports that over 2 million individuals battle with prescription opioid-related substance use disorders. The American Psychiatric Association (APA) states that in terms of opioid use disorders, the 12-month prevalence is estimated to be 0.37% of the adult population and 1.0% of the youth population.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and risk factors for opioid addiction

When trying to uncover the causes and risk factors that can make someone susceptible to developing opioid use disorder, it is imperative to consider the information listed below:

Genetic: According to the APA, genetic factors play a significant role in whether an individual is more likely to develop opioid use disorder. When a family history of opioid abuse and addiction is present, individuals are more likely to battle with the same form of addiction than those who do not have this history. Specific character traits and temperamental factors that add to the likelihood of abusing opioids are often hereditary.

Risk Factors:

  • Family or personal history of substance abuse and addiction
  • Being surrounded by those who abuse opioids or other substances
  • Being impulsive or having novelty-seeking traits
  • Suffering from a medical condition that causes an individual to be prescribed opioids
  • Having easy access to opioid substances

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of opioid addiction

The signs and symptoms that an individual who is battling with opioid abuse might display will vary from user to user depending on a number of factors, such as the type of opioid that is being abused. Some of the many symptoms that can occur when someone is grappling with opioid use disorder can include:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Visiting numerous doctors’ offices to obtain multiple painkiller prescriptions
  • Compulsive, long-term use of opioids
  • Slurred speech
  • Participating in drug-related crimes
  • Showing a decline performance at work or school
  • No longer participating in previously enjoyed activities
  • Not fulfilling obligations at home
  • Using opioids in a hazardous manner, such as when driving a car

Physical symptoms:

  • Psychomotor retardation
  • Insomnia
  • Psychomotor agitation
  • Drowsiness
  • Pupillary constriction

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Suicidal ideation
  • Impaired judgment
  • Cravings for continued use of opioids
  • Memory impairment
  • Attention and concentration troubles

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Depression
  • Euphoria followed by empathy
  • No longer being interested in activities that were once enjoyed
  • Withdrawing from loved ones


Effects of opioid addiction

Abusing opioids can cause individuals to experience a variety of damaging effects, which can include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Dry mouth and nose
  • Slowing of gastrointestinal activity/constipation
  • Suffering from anoxia, or a deficiency in the level of oxygen that reaches tissues in the body
  • Increased risk for suicide attempts or completed suicides
  • Impaired visual acuity
  • Track marks or sclerosed veins in those who inject the drug(s)
  • Legal issues due to partaking in criminal activity
  • Financial instability
  • Increased risk for contracting infections such as hepatitis C or HIV
  • Relationship upset, marital strife, and familial discord
  • Homelessness
  • Academic or occupational failure

Co-Occurring Disorders

Opioid addiction and co-occurring disorders

Those who battle with an opioid addiction often also struggle with symptoms of other mental health issues. Some examples of the many co-occurring disorders that can be present in conjunction with opioid use disorder include:

  • Major depressive disorder
  • Stimulant use disorder
  • Persistent depressive disorder
  • Alcohol use disorder
  • Other substance use disorders
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

Withdrawal & Overdose

Effects of opioid withdrawal & overdose

Effects of opioid withdrawal: When individuals have engaged in a long-term pattern of opioid abuse but desire to end their abuse, they will most likely encounter a distressing period of time that is known as withdrawal. At this time, a number of symptoms can develop which can include:

  • Watery eyes
  • Excessive yawning
  • Dysmorphic mood
  • Insomnia
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Pupil dilation
  • Fever
  • Diarrhea
  • Sweating
  • Muscle aches

Effects of opioid overdose: When opioids are taken to an extent that the user’s body becomes unable to process them, she places herself at risk of overdosing. When opioids are chronically consumed, a user can grow tolerant, which means that she must continually consume larger doses of the substance in order to obtain the same effects. As individuals continue to elevate their doses, their risk of overdosing becomes much greater. Warning signs that could an opioid overdose can include:

  • Sudden sleepiness
  • Severe dizziness
  • Cold, clammy skin
  • Headache
  • Extreme confusion
  • Significantly slurred speech
  • Seizures
  • Shallow or labored breathing

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What turned into a legitimate use for my back pain evolved into an addiction. Thanks to The Rose, I was able to get the appropriate treatment for my opioid addiction.

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