Opioid epidemic in America

What Do Opioids Do to Society? Heroin’s Societal Cost and What We Can Do to Help

Between the years 1999 and 2017, more than 700,000 people in the United States died from a drug overdose.

Of those 700,000 deaths, nearly 400,000 involved an opioid (either a prescription opioid or an illicit opioid like heroin).

You’ve probably heard people talking about the opioid epidemic over the last few years. What does that really mean, though? What do opioids do to society?

If you’re unsure of the dangers associated with opioids, keep reading.

Explained below are some important facts about heroin and other opioids, as well as the toll they’re taking on people all over the world.

What are Opioids?

Opioids are a class of drug. There are a number of drugs, both prescription and illicit, that fall under the opioid umbrella. Some of the most well-known opioids include:

  • Heroin
  • Fentanyl
  • Oxycodone
  • Hydrocodone
  • Codeine
  • Morphine

Many people begin consuming opioids to help them deal with pain. They may receive a prescription to help them manage chronic pain or acute pain after undergoing surgery or a serious injury.

Opioid drugs, even those that are prescribed by a doctor, are highly addictive. If a person can no longer access prescription opioids, they may turn to heroin in order to find relief.

What Do Opioids Do?

Opioids relieve pain by binding to opioid receptors.

Opioid receptors are present on the nerve cells of the brain and spinal cord. They’re also present in the gut and other areas of the body.

When opioids bind to opioid receptors, they block the pain signals sent to the brain.

In addition to relieving pain, opioids can bring on feelings of euphoria, especially when they’re taken in excess. They produce a variety of other effects, too, including the following:

  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Constipation
  • Shallow breath rate
  • Slowed heart rate
  • Loss of consciousness

When they stop taking opioids suddenly, many people experience withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms include shakiness, insomnia, anxiety, vomiting, and abdominal pain.

Effects of Opioids on Society

As you can see, opioid use and abuse can negatively affect people on an individual level. The opioid epidemic is also having some serious impacts on society as a whole.

Opioids and Relationships

Heroin and prescription opioid abuse can negatively impact a variety of relationships. It often affects marriages, friendships, and relationships between parents and children.

Someone who abuses opioids or uses heroin may have a hard time keeping up with their responsibilities.

They may neglect their loved ones and isolate themselves so they can continue using their drug of choice. They may also engage in behaviors that put their loved ones at risk.

Heroin and opioid use are also often associated with financial problems, domestic violence, and loss of custody, all of which create serious issues within families.

Opioids and Crime

Heroin use and opioid abuse can also lead to increases in violence and crime.

Research does not show that opioids make people more violent or prone to lawbreaking. It might exacerbate underlying issues, though, or create a strong sense of desperation and increase the likelihood that people will do things they normally wouldn’t.

Many people turn to crimes like violent robberies and theft to help them fund their addiction. There has also been an increase in gang violence in recent years related to drug cartels that are bringing heroin and other drugs into the United States.

Opioids and Illness

Long-term opioid abuse also increases the likelihood that someone will suffer from serious or chronic illnesses.

Chronic illness is already on the rise in the United States, and the opioid epidemic isn’t making things better.

Using heroin or other opioids long-term can increase one’s risk of dealing with respiratory issues or heart problems. People who use heroin are also at a higher risk of developing infectious diseases like hepatitis and HIV.

Because many people who abuse heroin do not have health insurance, the government ultimately becomes responsible for paying for their treatment.

Signs of Opioid Addiction

How do you know if someone is dealing with an opioid addiction? It’s not always easy to tell, but you might notice the following symptoms:

  • Problems with coordination
  • Frequent drowsiness
  • A shallow or slow breathing rate
  • Frequent nausea and/or vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Poor decision-making skills
  • Neglecting responsibilities at home or at work
  • Isolating themselves from family or friends
  • Slurred speech
  • Mood swings or agitation
  • Decreased motivation
  • Anxiety attacks

An individual who is addicted to opioids may also experience withdrawal symptoms when they try to stop consuming opioids.

Overcoming Opioid Addiction

To overcome opioid addiction, an individual must first acknowledge that they do, in fact, have an addiction. This can be very difficult to do.

The sooner someone can acknowledge that they have a problem, though, the sooner they can get help and begin recovering.

If you have a loved one who is struggling with opioid addiction, it can be helpful to sit down and talk to them one-on-one and express your concerns. If that doesn’t work, you may want to consider hosting an intervention.

An intervention involves sitting down with your loved one and a group of others who care for them and are concerned about their behavior. Everyone, then, can express their concern and let the person know how their behavior has affected them personally.

Addiction Recovery Options

There are many different treatment options for opioid addiction, including detox programs, inpatient residential treatment, and outpatient treatment.

It’s not ideal for someone to try and overcome opioid addiction on their own. It can even be dangerous because opioid withdrawal symptoms are so severe.

When they receive treatment from professionals, addicts can gain access to medication and other resources that will help minimize withdrawal symptoms and improve their chances of staying sober.

Get Help with Opioid Addiction Today

Do you have a friend or loved one who is showing signs of opioid addiction?

Now that you have a clearer answer to the question—”what do opioids do to society?”—if you see signs of opioid addiction, it’s important to encourage your loved one to seek help.

There are lots of resources out there designed to help those struggling with opioid addiction.

Contact us to learn about options near you or to get more information on the types of treatment available.


pain management

5 Ways to Manage Pain Without Opioids

Pain is something we all deal with from time to time. Pain may be caused by illness, injury, surgery, and a variety of other factors. Left untreated, pain can have a negative impact on your overall quality of life and possibly lead to other complications. Effective treatment is the key to adequate pain relief.  

Chronic pain in particular can have a huge effect on a person’s physical, mental, and emotional health. Chronic pain is when pain becomes long-term, usually lasting for longer than 12 weeks. 

Complications that can arise from chronic pain include depression, weight gain, insomnia, anxiety, hormonal changes, and more. Without proper pain management, a person falls risk to all these complications. We at Addiction Treatment Services care about the whole person, that is why we care about the mind and body, as well as the symptoms. 

There are many options when it comes to pain management. The tricky part is that what works well for one person may not work well for someone else. Unfortunately for this reason, opioids can quickly lead to abuse, and eventually, an addiction may form. 

This is not to say that addiction is always the case. When opioids are used appropriately as prescribed by a medical professional, they can be an important and beneficial component of treatment. 

Serious risks remain however, and for this reason, an individual should always consider the risks of using opioids alongside their benefits. One should also consider the other ways that pain can be managed. 

So, what are some other ways pain can be managed? 

1. Exercise 

Getting some exercise is one example of a simple way to deal with pain without using opioids. While some people cannot imagine exercising through their pain, there are definitely ways it can be done. 

The best way is to exercise through your pain is with the guidance of a physical therapist. A physical therapist is an expert in the area of dealing with chronic pain. It may be a slower path that requires more patience, but the results are well worth it. Physical therapy can help you regain strength and become more active for better overall health. 

Exercise also releases a natural pain reliever in the brain called endorphins, which are hormones responsible for producing a positive feeling. Other exercises that may help with pain include swimming, walking, yoga, and biking. 

2. Acupuncture 

Acupuncture is a form of therapy that involves thin needles being inserted into the skin. While this may sound counterintuitive and quite painful in itself, many people report pain relief after undergoing acupuncture. 

The way this form of therapy works is by stimulating certain points within the body that are believed to be responsible for certain pathways of pain. It is said that acupuncture disrupts the flow of these pathways, thereby blocking the pathway of pain. 

Many people regard acupuncture as just a false form of treatment made popular by people who believe in exotic treatments, however it is actually approved by the FDA to be used as a medical device. 

3. Injections and Nerve Blocks 

Some people turn to receiving injections to manage pain. These injections work by blocking pain receptor sites which results in a decreased sensation of pain. This form of therapy is temporary and works best in cases of acute pain. However, it can be beneficial for people dealing with chronic pain if they use it in conjunction with other forms of therapy. 

Nerve blocking injections are most commonly used in people dealing with joint pain or peripheral nerve issues, and it’s usually only considered when other forms of treatment have not worked. The location in which you receive the injection depends on the site of your pain. If you feel immediate pain relief, the treatment is usually considered successful. 

4. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy 

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a form of therapy that addresses the psychological patterns that contribute to pain. CBT is done with a licensed professional therapist, and has been proven to be very beneficial to patients dealing chronic pain. 

In this form of therapy, the therapist helps the individual identify certain patterns and thought processes that may be exacerbating their physical symptoms. Some of these thought patterns may include avoidance, fear, anxiety, anger, and other forms of distress. 

During CBT, you will be trained on how to deal with these negative thought patterns by learning new behavioral techniques to employ instead, which should lead to more positive thinking patterns and decreased stress, thus, decreased pain.  

5. Non-Opioid Medication Options 

There are many medications available to help treat pain that do not fall under the opioid category. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs act within the body to help with pain and inflammation. Inflammation occurs with many chronic pain issues, especially issues of the joints. 

Corticosteroids are a class of medication that also have an effect on inflammation and are given to many people who have arthritis. Acetaminophen is another drug you can get over the counter that helps with pain, but not inflammation. 

Ask your provider about non-opioid medication options. While you can get many of these drugs over the counter, it’s always best to consult with your provider before starting any new medications. 

Take Control of Your Life 

Opioids can be a very beneficial part of treatment for pain. However, it is far too easy to become dependent on opioids, which can lead to a full blown addiction. 

The thing is, there is no limit to how much you can increase the dose of opioids. Unlike non-opioid drugs, you can keep increasing the dose of opioids once you start to become tolerant of the current dose’s effects. This quickly turns into a slippery slope that can easily lead to addiction. The consequences are extremely harmful and can even be fatal. 

If you’re dealing with chronic pain, talk with your provider about your concerns regarding the risks of opioids. There are many other options available and your doctor can help you find the best fit for you.  

We at Addiction Treatment Services want you to know that we are here to help you, whether you or a loved one are struggling with an addiction. Our team of highly qualified professionals care about you and your success in sobriety. Reach out to us today at our 24 hour hotline by calling (855) 247-4046.

What Causes Painkiller Addiction

Prescription Drug Abuse: What Causes Painkiller Addiction

130 people each day. That’s the rate of death stemming from the opioid crisis.

That translates to a little over 5 people every hour, or one death every twenty minutes. So in the time, it takes to watch the newest episode of your favorite Netflix show, another person dies from an opioid overdose.

It’s a grim reality, and one the United States is only just coming to grips with. After all, it was only in 2017 that the federal government declared Opiates a public health emergency. But the opiate crisis has been ongoing since the 1990’s.

But how could this happen? In a country that calls itself the greatest in the world, how is it possible that so many are dying from a preventable addiction?

It’s a complicated answer, and the history is long. But to understand how painkiller addiction happens, it’s necessary to first understand how opiates work, why they are so addictive, and how we got here in the first place.

Only then will you be able to recognize the signs of prescription drug abuse. Keep reading to learn more.

The Beginning of a Crisis

In the 1990’s, pharmaceutical companies wanted to cash in on the miracle of opioid painkillers.

After all, here was this miraculous solution to pain management. They could make the pain simply go away, making it a medical marvel.

And it meant huge dollar signs for pharmaceutical companies, who began aggressive marketing campaigns to get the drugs in the hands of patients.

Prior to 1991, most opioid drugs were for pain management in cancer patients. There was no research suggesting benefits for non-cancer patients, but pharma companies saw a financial opening and a new market. So they started pushing, offering doctors huge perks and benefits for prescribing opioids to non-cancer patients.

The campaign was so successful that pharma companies saw opioid revenue grow from $48 million in 1996 to more than $1 billion four years later.

Worries About Addiction

Medical organizations and doctors raised concerns about the possible addictive properties of these new drugs. After all, they were modeled on opium, the main ingredient in heroin and morphine, both highly addictive.

But the pharma industry brushed aside these fears, assuring doctors that this was part of the miracle: powerful pain relief with no chance of addiction.

Proving them wrong didn’t take long. Deaths from opiate overdose began skyrocketing in the mid-90’s and only got higher as time went on. Pharma companies began producing newer drugs. As Fentanyl hit the market, it produced a new wave of addicts.

And as prescriptions ran out, some patients turned to heroin, which was cheaper and readily available.

But how do these drugs work? How have they ensnared so many?

Understanding Opiates

It’s important here to understand the verbiage. Opiates are a type of narcotic.

Now, narcotic has become an umbrella term for all drugs. But when we say narcotic in reference to opioids, it refers to drugs of a specific type.

Before it became an umbrella term, a narcotic was defined as a drug that “…dulls the senses, relieves pain and produces a profound sleep…”

The original opiates were morphine and heroin and were common during medical procedures. Originally, scientists developed morphine as an aid for those with heroin addiction, since when it was first isolated, no one bothered to test its own addictive properties.

So what do they do to the body?

Opiates are “downers”, meaning that they depress the functioning of the central nervous system. This relieves pain, but also can cause euphoria, as well as a whole slew of other side effects, from dry mouth to constipation.

Understanding Addiction

So with the side effects, why would anyone take opiates longer than they had to?

First, it’s important to understand how people get addicted.

Addiction is a disease, and it’s one that isn’t well understood, even within professional circles. Often, people who don’t understand addiction frame it as a lack of moral fortitude or willpower.

In other words, the perception is that only “bad people” or “weak people” become addicts. The reality, however, is far more complicated.

Addiction is a cyclical illness. A person takes a drug, which feeds the pleasure center of the brain by flooding it with dopamine.

Now, the brain produces dopamine anyway as a natural reaction to eating, drinking, or having sex. The brain rewards activities necessary to sustain life in order to make you keep doing them.

But when you introduce drugs, they flood the brain with high levels of dopamine, which throws the system out of alignment. Instead of rewarding healthy behaviors, the drugs force the bran to reward unhealthy behaviors.

The secondary effect here is that, as more dopamine enters the brain on a regular basis, the brain shuts down the cells used to receive it, in an attempt to regulate its functioning. This means that more and more levels of drug use are necessary to maintain the same high.

It’s also vital to understand that not every person who uses painkillers will get addicted. Millions of people every year use them without getting addicted. Whether or not a person becomes addicted depends on several factors, but none of them is ethics or moral fiber.

Genetic Factors

Because addiction is a psychiatric disease, it stands to reason that there is a genetic component, like any other psychiatric disease. The children of people with depression are more likely than the general public to suffer from depression. In the same way, the children of addicts are more likely to become addicts themselves.

Researchers at the National Institue of Drug Abuse have a theory for this.

The brain contains a finite number of dopamine receptors that help the brain regulate its pleasure center. Brain imaging suggests that individuals with fewer of these receptors are more likely to struggle with addiction. And, like with much else in the body, how many receptors are present is largely determined by genetics.

Studies on twins have also shown that identical twins, who share a genome that is 100% indistinguishable, are highly likely to share addictions. So much so that identical twins are often assumed to be concordant, or to either both be addicts or neither.

Genetics account for about half of a person likelihood for addiction. But what about external factors?

Environmental Factors

Genetics accounts for about half of individuals likely to become addicted. The other half is external, or environmental.

Keep in mind that opiates, in particular, offer easy relief from pain. There are other methods of pain management available, but they often take a great deal more effort.

Now, faced with that explanation, many explain it away. “Oh,” they say, “this is just proof that addicts are lazy and unwilling to try other things to reduce their pain!”

But the reality is that debilitating pain is just that: debilitating. Often, it becomes so all-consuming that sufferers just want it to go away so that they can function. The idea of trying anything else is so exhausting as to seem nearly impossible.

It can also be an issue of withdrawal. Even very limited use of painkillers can induce unpleasant withdrawal symptoms when the prescription runs out. And if there is still pain from the original problem, the withdrawal symptoms may prove to be too much, especially for those without adequate support systems.

The Process of Addiction

Let’s take a look at how addiction happens in a practical sense.

It starts, perhaps obviously, with pain. Let’s call our patient Claire. She is 19, and a gymnast at her university.

Claire requires surgery for a torn ACL. Surgery goes well, and her surgeon prescribes her a week’s worth of oxycontin for pain the week following surgery. She knows her uncle struggled with addiction years ago, but she doesn’t know him well and assumes his issues stemmed from elsewhere.

The meds keep her pain under control, but she is frustrated by her limited mobility. Her teammates are at a competition, and she is still in recovery. At the end of the week, her meds run out, and the pain returns. It isn’t as bad as it was in the beginning, but she’s had a week of perfectly controlled pain, and the return is unbearable.

She is also feeling sick as the effects of the medication wear off. The narcotics have made her digestion slow, and she is still struggling with her limitations.

She calls her doctor and asks for a refill. They give her five more days worth, at a lower dose.

She takes two at a time to combat the pain at the same levels and begins to test her boundaries at physical therapy. Taking the pills makes the pain go away, which lets her go further in her mobility.

She keeps pushing her injured leg too far, necessitating more rest.

The setbacks cause more frustration, more pain, and more pills. She “borrows” an old prescription from her mother when she is home for Thanksgiving.

She is now buying pills from a cook at her job at a local restaurant because even though her ACL is mostly healed, the euphoria goes away every time she comes down. Coping with the stress of finals is getting impossible.

Only until finals are over, she promises herself.

But the pills are expensive. Her friend at work mentions that heroin is cheaper, and is basically the same thing. In a moment of desperation at the end of finals, she gives in.

In a matter of months, she has gone from promising young gymnast to an addict who can only think of her next pill. And it happened without her ever realizing what was happening.

Signs of Prescription Drug Abuse

The signs of prescription drug abuse come in four categories: behavioral, cognitive, physical, and psychosocial. Recognizing them in a loved one is crucial for recovery.

Addicts may hide behavioral signs, such a preoccupation with getting more pills or illegally acquiring more pills. Often, addicts are able to cover their tracks until things become too out of hand to hide.

Cognitive signs include disorientation, confusion, and an inability to focus.

Physical signs, which are among the easiest to spot. These can include itchiness, hypersomnia, constipation, irregular heartbeat, pinpointed pupils, and excessive sweating.

Psychosocial symptoms may manifest as mood swings, irritability, anxiety, and depression.  Addicts may begin stealing pills or money and withdrawing from personal relationships in order to avoid detection.

The Road out of Addiction

Addiction is a chronic disorder. Someone who is an addict will remain an addict for the rest of their life. This does not mean, however, that they must remain in a harmful cycle of abusing pills forever.

Most recovery programs agree that the first step to recovery is simply the addict realizing that they have a problem. They then must realize that there is a way out. Often, addicts try and fail to quit and become discouraged, convinced they will be trapped in the cycle of addiction forever.

They must move past this mindset before recovery can begin.

Once they are ready, ongoing treatment and support are crucial. They will need an unwavering support system, ready to help in moments of crisis. An inpatient treatment program may be necessary, and meetings will a local Narcotics Anonymous can help connect them with others who can empathize with their struggle.

After ninety days of sobriety, their risk of relapse decreases, but vigilance will always be necessary, especially because prescription drugs are the first resource in the event of surgery or major injury.


There is hope for those affected by opiate addiction. And once you know how to recognize the signs of prescription drug abuse, you can help support loved ones as they navigate their way to freedom.

But you don’t have to navigate the waters of recovery alone. We are here to help, connecting your loved ones with the best resources and treatment options.

To help your loved one begin their journey, contact us today.

oxycontin addiction signs

OxyContin Addiction Signs You Should Never Ignore

Do you suspect you might be dealing with an addiction to a powerful painkiller like OxyContin right now?

OxyContin addiction is something that has, unfortunately, become all too common in America over the course of the last two decades. Even though OxyContin has only been around since 1995, it has played a huge role in the opioid epidemic that has plagued the country and left millions of people addicted to prescription painkillers.

But one of the problems with OxyContin is that it’s not always easy to recognize the OxyContin addiction signs. One minute, you might be using OxyContin for completely legitimate medical purposes. And the next, you’re finding that you can’t get through your days without it.

If you’ve ever been prescribed OxyContin or if you’ve ever tried it recreationally, it’s important to keep an eye out for addiction symptoms. Here are 12 OxyContin addiction signs you should never ignore.

1. You Use OxyContin for Something Other Than What It’s Intended For

Despite what you might think about OxyContin, there are legitimate reasons for a person to use it on a regular basis. It can help those suffering from pain associated with everything from arthritis to cancer.

If you have a chronic condition that is forcing you to deal with pain day in and day out, OxyContin could actually be very helpful for you. As long as you follow your doctor’s orders and only take your prescribed dosage, you’ll find OxyContin to be beneficial.

But where most people run into trouble with OxyContin is when they start using it to feel good rather than just to relieve pain. At that point, they’re no longer using OxyContin for its intended purpose and are abusing the drug.

If you’re taking OxyContin almost every day without a reason, that is the first sign of OxyContin addiction. It’s best to try to put an end to it before your addiction starts to take over your life.

2. You’ve Developed a High Tolerance to OxyContin

Those who use OxyContin for an extended period of time will often start to develop a tolerance to it. The relatively small dosage they used to take will no longer have the intended effect on them.

When this happens, some people will recognize that they’re headed down the wrong path and stop using OxyContin. But others will begin to use more of it to get the same results as before.

This can signify the start of a dangerous cycle. Over time, people will need to continue to increase their OxyContin dosage to achieve the results they’re looking for. And when they do, they’ll get more and more addicted to OxyContin and make it tougher for them to go without the painkiller.

3. You’re No Longer Interested in Spending Time With Family and Friends

When you first start using OxyContin, you probably won’t have too hard of a time socializing with others when you’re on it. There are plenty of people who can still function while using OxyContin.

But as you start to use more and more of it, you may find yourself withdrawing from the social scene. You might even pull yourself away from spending time with family and friends.

This is often because large amounts of OxyContin can make you feel numb. The last thing you’ll want to do when you’re on it is sit and socialize with other people. So it’s not uncommon for OxyContin users to spend days and days at a time locked up in their houses.

If you find that you’re suddenly indifferent to the idea of being around people, it’s one of the OxyContin addiction signs that should speak to you.

4. You Spend Most of Your Time Trying to Obtain OxyContin

When those who have become addicted to OxyContin aren’t busy using the painkiller, they’re usually busy trying to find ways to score more of it.

There are lots of ways in which people will try to obtain OxyContin. Some will visit multiple doctors in their city in the hopes of getting their hands on legal prescriptions, while others will steal prescription drugs given to their family members and friends right out of their medicine cabinets.

Whatever the case, people who are dealing with an OxyContin addiction will often devote large portions of their life to obtaining the drug. They’ll stop at nothing to get more of it so that they can continue using it.

5. You’ve Committed a Crime to Buy OxyContin

If you have a prescription for OxyContin, it’s not all that expensive. You can get a 10mg pill for a little more than $1 and an 80mg pill for somewhere in the neighborhood of $6.

But if you don’t have a prescription, that’s when an OxyContin habit can get expensive. You’ll likely have to pay upwards of $10 for a 10mg pill and as much as $65 for an 80mg pill.

As you might imagine, those prices can make it tough for people to be able to afford OxyContin. Therefore, they’ll often resort to committing crimes to get access to the money they need to buy OxyContin.

Those addicted to OxyContin have been known to shoplift from stores, steal scrap metal from buildings, and even take money from their family members and friends. If you ever find yourself going to these lengths to score OxyContin, you should strongly consider getting professional help.

6. You’ve Experienced a Huge Shift in Your Personality

Outside of becoming more withdrawn, those living with an OxyContin addiction will also experience other changes to their personality over the months and years.

OxyContin addicts will often notice that they don’t have as much energy as they used to. They’ll also feel down and sometimes even depressed due to their OxyContin use. And they’ll have trouble concentrating on anything and maintaining a clear focus.

They’ll put almost all their time and energy into OxyContin and won’t have time for much else. That’ll drag their personality down and leave them acting like a shell of their former selves.

7. Your Physical Appearance Has Been Affected By OxyContin Use

Your personality isn’t the only thing that will start to change when you’re coming to terms with OxyContin addiction. Your physical appearance will also start to be affected before long.

In the beginning, you might still make an effort to keep up with hygiene. But as you spend more and more time chasing after the high that comes with abusing OxyContin, you’ll likely let yourself go and stop doing basic things like showering and brushing your teeth.

You’ll also stop eating and sleeping on a regular basis. This will often cause you to lose a significant amount of weight and make you look tired all the time.

Additionally, your immune system will take a huge hit due to the lack of nutrition and sleep that you’re getting. This will result in you getting sick more often and being forced to deal with a constant cough and runny nose.

8. You’re Neglecting Many of Your Normal Responsibilities

It’s almost impossible to live a normal life when an OxyContin addiction starts to spiral out of control. You have to spend so much time trying to get OxyContin that you don’t have much time left over for anything else.

If you’ve stopped going to school or only gone to work sporadically in recent weeks, that’s a big problem. It’s an indication that you have allowed OxyContin to take precedence over your responsibilities.

Rather than continuing to let OxyContin rule your life, you should make an effort to get your priorities back in order. That typically starts with checking yourself into a rehab facility to get assistance.

9. You’ve Become Sensitive to Sights and Sounds and Experienced Hallucinations

As you lose control of your OxyContin addiction, things will begin to get worse and worse for you. The OxyContin will often begin to play tricks with your mind.

When you’re abusing OxyContin on a regular basis, you’ll start to become very sensitive to all of the sights and sounds that surround you. It’ll be one of the many reasons why you won’t want to go out in public very often.

There are some people who also experience hallucinations when they’re using OxyContin. This can be very scary both for the addicted person and for those around them.

If you haven’t acknowledged the OxyContin addiction signs by now, it’s going to be hard to brush them off any longer.

10. You Wake Up Not Knowing What You Did the Previous Day

By the time you reach this point, you’re likely using a lot more OxyContin every day than you used to. And it could be causing you to forget events that are happening in your daily life.

If you’re waking up regularly and can’t remember what you did the day before, you’re likely experiencing ‘blackouts’. When a person uses opiates too often, it can mess with their memory and make it impossible for them to remember things that happened just 24 hours prior.

It can be awful going through your life like this, especially when you know that you’re going to need to continue to use high OxyContin dosages to avoid opiate withdrawal symptoms. Putting all that OxyContin right back into your system following a blackout will increase your chances of blacking out again.

11. You Lash Out When People Question You Using OxyContin

Initially, it can be easy for a person to hide an OxyContin addiction, especially if they spend most of their time alone. But over time, those who care about you will often start to notice OxyContin addiction signs for themselves.

When they do, they’ll likely approach you about your problem and attempt to get you the help you need. In a perfect world, you will take them up on their offer, but more often than not, OxyContin addicts will lash out at those who question their OxyContin use at first.

If you have yelled at or even distanced yourself from someone who has asked you about your OxyContin use, you should reconsider and think about if that was the right decision. You’ll likely find that it was your addiction talking and not you.

12. You’ve Considered Replacing OxyContin With Heroin

As we mentioned earlier, one of the major challenges that OxyContin abusers face when they’re using the drug illegally is the cost associated with obtaining it. It can force them to turn to a life of crime in order to supplement their addiction.

It can also force some people to consider replacing OxyContin with heroin since heroin is significantly cheaper than OxyContin and often more accessible. The price of OxyContin has been blamed for America’s heroin problem early and often in the past.

This is a huge cause for concern because, while OxyContin addiction is bad enough in and of itself, a heroin addiction can be even harder to break. Heroin is a highly addictive drug that currently has its tentacles wrapped around more than 1 million Americans.

If you have ever even considered trying heroin, it’s time for you to get help. There are many people who have become addicted to heroin after using it just once. It’s a drug that is definitely not worth experimenting with, especially when there is help available for your current OxyContin addiction.

Pay Attention to What OxyContin Addiction Signs Are Telling You

Have you noticed any of these OxyContin addiction signs in yourself in recent weeks?

If so, pick up the phone and get some help today. It’s never too late to fight back against OxyContin addiction and reclaim your life.

You don’t have to go through the rest of your days looking for a way to obtain OxyContin. You also don’t have to spend them fighting with your family members and your friends about the addiction that has consumed you. You can get assistance with your addiction to bring it to an end.

Are you in the process of trying to get help for an OxyContin addiction or do you know someone who is? Give us a call today and let us tell you more about the treatment methods we offer for OxyContin addiction.

why are opioids so addictive

Why Are Opioids So Addictive? Here’s How Opioid Addiction Occurs

More than 115 people are dying every single day from this soul-stealing disease.

Let’s break that down.

There are 24 hours in a day. That means nearly five people are dying every single hour.

Every year, the two million people affected, in the U.S. alone, spend approximately $78.5 billion on this disease.

What is this mysterious disease? The culprit is none other than opioid addiction.

“Addiction? That’s not a disease!”

Contrary to the popular belief, addiction is a disease, just like diabetes, cancer, or heart disease. Addiction is defined as, “Addiction involves changes in the functioning of the brain and body. These changes may be brought on by risky substance use or may pre-exist.”

But, why are opioids so addictive? And how do you know when you have a problem?

Read on to answer these questions and find out more on opioid addiction.

Terminology: Opiates vs Opioids

To get things started, let’s go over some basic terminology.

You’ve heard the term opioids, but you’re probably more familiar with the term opiates as well. More than likely, you’ve heard them used interchangeably or incorrectly. But what really is the difference?


Both the terms opiate and opioid are derived from the opium plant. Opiates are the actual chemical substances that are extracted from the opium plant, also known as opium alkaloids. Opiates are natural compounds from the opium plant.

Morphine, Codeine, and Thebaine are the three main opium alkaloids scientist use to synthesize many medical compounds.


Opioids, on the other hand, is a broader term. It refers to any substance that binds with the opium receptors in your body. This substance could be natural or synthetic. So, opioids can be opiates, but opiates can’t be opioids.

In this article, we’re going to focus on opioids because it is a broader term and covers more.

How to Spot an Opioid Addiction

How can you spot an opioid? Are they all dangerous? How can they be taken?

If you suspect your loved one has an opioid addiction, it’s important to learn how to spot it and what danger signs to look out for.

What Does Opioid Addiction Look Like?

A person that is recreationally using opioids might show any of the following signs:

  • High resting heart rate
  • Increased energy
  • Decreased appetite
  • Increased sexual arousal
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Irritability
  • Depression

How Are Opioids Taken?

Opioids can be taken orally or through injection. Many medical professionals will prescribe opioids for severe pain, cough, or diarrhea. Doctors will usually prescribe the opioid to be taken orally, however, if you’re in immediate need for pain relief your doctor make give you an injection.

Some abusers may even snort crushed pills, as this allows the opioid to absorb into the bloodstream much faster.

Why Are Opioids So Addictive?

There are two main factors in addiction: physiology and psychology.

The physiology refers to the body’s biological response to synthetic opioid chemicals, where the psychology focusses on behavioral symptoms.

The Physiology

Did you know that your body makes opioids naturally? You have special protein receptors in your brain, spinal cord, and digestive system called opioid receptors. These natural opioids kill pain, slow down breathing, and relax the body.

Opioids like heroin or oxycodone mimic the chemical structure of these natural opioid neurotransmitters and bind to your receptors. This triggers the brain’s reward system and causes dopamine to be released.

Dopamine is responsible for emotion, motivation, body movement, and is a hedonistic hotspot, more often referred to as the “pleasure center”.

The Psychology

A person’s psyche is affected by many factors, the BRA being a major one in addiction. In addition to the BRA affects, we have deeper roots such as dependence and tolerance.


Your brain is absolutely incredible. It has a built-in reward system. The brain reward system, or BRA, is a group of neurons that control what you like and what you want.

Liking something and wanting something are two completely different stimuli.

When you like something, it’s called intrinsic. Intrinsic stimuli are things that you naturally like. For example, food.

Extrinsic, on the other hand, are learned motivated behaviors, or wanting. Money, for example, is just a piece of paper. But through learned association, money now triggers the BRA.

Opioid addiction is an extrinsic stimulus, meaning that a person doesn’t actually like doing drugs, but they have a begging want for them.

The want center, or incentive salience, is responsible for making abusers feel like they need their next fix.

Roots of Addiction

Many abusers don’t want to keep doing these drugs, but they might feel like that have to keep doing them just to feel normal. Things like tolerance, dependence, and withdrawal are big factors in a person’s detox.

Addiction may start out where the user enjoys the euphoric feeling that opioids provide, but it quickly morphs into dependence.

Remember how we said that your body makes a natural opioid neurotransmitter? When the body gets used to receiving the fool chemicals, it actually stops making the natural neurotransmitter. Because of this, users have to continue to take opioids just to feel normal.

The euphoric feeling that once was is now just a dose of “normal” to long-term abusers.

What Makes Opioids Deadly

Opioids kill a person by slowing down the breathing processes. Breathing delivers fresh oxygen and removes poisonous carbon dioxide. When this process becomes too shallow, cells throughout the body begin to die off.

Many of the opioid receptors are found in the brainstem. The medulla and pons are regions inside the brainstem that are responsible for involuntary breathing, they control that rate and depth of breathing. Because the opioids taken are not the exact natural neurotransmitter, the cells react in a different way than normal, causing malfunctions.

Fentanyl, for example, can cause the diaphragm and surrounding muscles to tense up and further restrict breathing. This condition is called wooden chest syndrome.

Other possible causes of death are caused by vomit aspiration or abnormal heart rhythm.

Signs and Symptoms of an Overdose

If you have a loved one that is facing an opioid addiction, there is a possibility that you may one day find them overdosing. While this is a tough truth to hear, it’s important to know the signs and symptoms of an overdose so that you can call for the appropriate treatment.

Signs and symptoms:

  • Pinpoint pupils
  • Drowsiness
  • Confusion
  • Depressed breathing
  • Uncontrollable vomiting
  • Slow movements

First responders carry a drug called naloxone, which is used in life-threatening overdose situations. Naloxone works by latching onto the opioid receptors and effectively blocking the damaging opioids from continuing to bind. Naloxone works within minutes and may reverse the effects of an overdose if taken in time.

Risk Factors For Addiction

Opioids post the biggest threat when you take them differently than your doctor prescribes. Your risk factor also increases based on the length of time the opioid is taken. The longer the opioid is taken, the higher dependence your body will have formed.

Other known risk factors for addiction include:

When Do Opioids Become a Problem?

Opioids become a problem when a person builds up what is called a tolerance. A tolerance is when the body needs more and more of a substance to create the same effect.

Because of tolerance and dependence, detoxing on your own can actually be a very dangerous process. The body has stopped creating its own opioid neurotransmitters, so when the body all of a sudden stops receiving these chemicals that it’s learned to rely on, it can go into a state of shock. Being in a state of shock can be deadly if not cared for appropriately.

For this reason, it’s important to detox in a certified rehab facility.

How to Detox Safely

Suboxone, for example, can be prescribed in these facilities to aid in successful detox. Suboxone contains two different opioid agonists: buprenorphine and naloxone. We mentioned earlier how naloxone can help, but what is buprenorphine?

buprenorphine is a partial opioid agonist, meaning that it only partially blocks the opioid receptors, and partially activates them. This allows the user to be gradually weaned off of the drug, preventing the body from going into shock.

Why isn’t suboxone given out in drugstores?

Just like other opioids, suboxone can be abused. Rehab facilities that prescribe suboxone carefully monitor the recovering addicts and watch for warning signs of abuse.

If you know someone taking suboxone, you should learn the warning signs of misuse as well. The following are a few signs and symptoms:

  • Nausea
  • Fever
  • Muscle aches
  • Headaches
  • Insomnia
  • Mood swings

Emotional Recovery

During and after a person successfully detoxes from opioids, there are many emotional phases they must go through. These phases are very similar to those a grieving person may go through.


The first emotional recovery phase a person may go through is depression. Depression may be felt during or even before opioid use.

This depression is not to be confused with sadness. Just like addiction, depression is a mind-altering disease.

Clinical depression affects the way a person’s brain chemistry works and directly affects the BRA. This depression may be temporary or, sadly, the person may never recover from it.

A treatment facility may prescribe medication to help curb the depression. Finding an anti-depressant medication is never easy, so you’ll want to leave it up to the professionals.


Anger is the second stage a person may experience. This stage tends to be felt during the beginning to the end of the detox process. The user may feel anger towards friends and family, especially if those loved ones suggested the rehabilitation.

This anger is never personal, as it is a side effect of the BRA. The user’s body is used to receiving a stimulus to the BRA, so when that stimulus stops, well, basically the body throws a chemically induced temper tantrum.

This stage is temporary, as the body is working out the kinks. Let some time go by and this stage will correct itself.


Guilt is often felt after the detoxification process is complete. The user begins to realize the many harmful things that they have said or done to their loved ones. Guilt can be more than overwhelming, so it’s important to be patient.

Therapists will usually suggest apologizing as the first step. The therapist will also inform the ex-addict that not every person will accept the apology.

In some cases, similar to depression, the feeling of guilt will never leave a person – no matter how many times they apologize. For this reason, many rehabilitation facilities will recommend further therapy after detox. This therapy may be a personal therapist or NA meetings.

NA, or narcotics anonymous, meetings are held by many ex-addicts, each of them sharing their stories and recovery tips. Some members of NA groups have been clean for many years, others only days.

Whichever type of therapy is chosen, it’s important to stick to it. Leaving a therapy prematurely can result in a relapse.

Getting Help for Addiction

Now you know the answer to “why are opioids so addictive?” If you or a loved one is experiencing opioid addiction, there is hope.

We have state-to-state centers that offer multiple levels of rehab care, including detoxification, inpatient treatment, partial hospitalization, and outpatient treatment.

Contact our addiction intervention specialists for help in overcoming the disease that addiction really is.

Our addiction specialists are available 24 hours a day to help you or your loved one take the first step into recovery before it’s too late.