Opioid Addiction, Symptoms, & Treatment

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Throughout the United States, we have been facing an opioid epidemic. It has been estimated by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health for the year 2018 there were 10,250,000 people that had misused opioids.  While opioids and opiates are not identical, opioids are the synthetic version of opiates.

There has been an influx of data collected covering opioid use. Some of which is shocking to see put into numbers. Research has shown that those who misuse prescription pain medicine will try heroin within 10 years. Between the years of 1999 and 2017, there were 399,000 died from an opioid overdose. 

Some areas within the United States have been hit harder than others but opioid misuse has impacted us all. The Midwest region, for instance, had seen a huge increase in overdose between July 2016 and September 2017. The increase was an astounding 70 percent.  If you or a loved one is seeking opioid treatment, the time to get help is now. Read on to learn more about how these drugs affect the body and what the opioid recovery process may look like for long-term recovery. By the end of this guide, you’ll have a better idea of opioid addiction treatment so you can find a rehab that’s right for you. 

What are Opiates or Opioids?

Technically speaking, opiates are drugs derived from the poppy plant, known for their ability to dull pain. These naturally-derived drugs include morphine, codeine, heroin, and opium. Colloquially, the term “opiate” is often used to describe similar man-made medications known scientifically as “opioids”. Powerful pain-relievers (and also powerfully addictive), these synthesized narcotics include Demerol, Vicodin, Methadone, Fentanyl, Oxycodone, Darvon, and Dilaudid.

There are two different types of prescription opioids made for the treatment of medical issues. The classifications of opiates are antagonists and agonists. Although one is less habit-forming than the other, each has addictive properties. 

Antagonists are used frequently within the detox field. They are able to help ease the process for those who have become addicted to certain substances. These are less habit-forming than agonists. Common brand names are Naltrexone and Naloxone.

Agonists, on the other hand, have been found to be highly addictive. They produce the opiate effect by mimicking the endorphins in our bodies by their interaction with the receptors in our brain. 

List of Common Agonist Prescription Opioids

  • Codeine: Codeine is used to treat pain and cough. It is not as strong as other derivatives and prescribed by doctors and sold within other medications that can be found over the counter. 
  • Demerol: Demerol is used in the treatment of moderate or severe pain. Due to its high addiction potential from causing feelings of euphoria, it is not prescribed by doctors as frequently. 
  • Darvocet: Darvocet, also known as Darvon, has been banned but it still found in the black market. While they were still on the market they caused several deaths and placed thousands in the hospital. 
  • Fentanyl: Fentanyl has been mentioned frequently within the media due to overdose and is the root cause of deaths across the country. It is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine and had been designed and only prescribed for severe pain. 
  • Methadone: Methadone is generally used for the treatment of severe pain and to ease cravings of other substances. 
  • Hydrocodone: Hydrocodone is found as an ingredient in pain medication like Vicodin. It can also be prescribed on its own rather than in combination with others. 
  • Dilaudid: Dilaudid is another strong pain reliever. It is comparable to heroin due to its effect. 
  • Oxycodone: Oxycodone is a highly addictive pain reliever that is frequently prescribed by doctors. 
  • Morphine: Morphine is known as one of the most addictive versions of opiates and is one of the drugs responsible for many deaths. It is given to those suffering from severe and chronic pain. 

What Causes Opioid Addiction? 

The euphoric effects the various forms of opiates cause when taken in large amounts is what has caused their addictive tendency. The euphoria comes from the chemicals in opiates that cause large amounts of dopamine to be released. Thus stimulating the brain’s reward center which leads to the desire for more.

However, the body builds up a tolerance for many drugs, including opiates. Therefore, when people misuse opiates their tolerance builds. Finding that to reach the same effect or relief they need larger or more frequent doses. Thus forming the habit and eventually causing an opiate addiction.

During the first release of opiates to the public for pain relief, they were thought to not be habit-forming. Therefore doctors felt comfortable prescribing them when necessary. Unintentionally causing their patients to form a chemical dependency on the prescription.  Those prescribed the medication had become dependent before they even realize what had happened. 

Unfortunately once this level of dependency has been reached, getting more of the drug becomes a fixation for those that have become addicted. In some cases, those impacted by opiate dependency may even resort to “doctor shopping.” Doctor shopping is known as visiting multiple health professionals and complaining of pain in the hope of being prescribed an opiate.

Many people have still prescribed an opiate as pain relief. Although due to the circumstances it is far more regulated and proper use and disposal are related by the doctor. The doctor will also need to understand the family history of substance abuse to determine if it is wise to prescribe such an addictive substance.

What are the signs and symptoms of opiate abuse?

Though the effects of opioid abuse can vary based on the particular drug, users usually vary between periods of drowsiness and alertness, even “nodding off” on occasion. Because opiates depress breathing, interactions with other substances and overdoses can have fatal consequences and may shut down breathing altogether. 

Opiate dependence symptoms:

  • Longer periods and larger amounts than prescribed
  • Desire to or unsuccess in stopping and controlling opiate use
  • Time spent obtaining, using, and recovering from opiates
  • Cravings and desire to use
  • Unable to complete work, school, or home obligations
  • Social and personal issues related to opiates
  • Physically dangerous situations caused by usage
  • Use regardless of signs of physical and psychological issues

Side effects of opioid abuse:

  • Dry mouth, headache, skin rash
  • Nausea, constipation, stomach cramps
  • Drowsiness, coma, nightmares
  • Mood instability, depression, agitation, apathy
  • Menstruation issues, sexual dysfunction, lack of libido
  • Slurred speech, contracted pupils
  • Loss of attention

Overdose signs:

  • Blue lips
  • Decreased vital signs
  • Cold or clammy skin
  • Nervous system change

There a Withdrawal From Opioids

Opioids cause many withdrawal problems. The thought of withdrawal causes some of those suffering from opiate addiction to delay the treatment process. Below are some of the symptoms often experienced during withdrawal:

  • Agitation, restlessness, irritability
  • Diarrhea, vomiting, cold flashes
  • Sweating, yawning, runny nose
  • Anxiety, panic, fear, paranoia
  • Muscle ache, hypertension, leg twitching
  • Irregular or rapid heartbeat, fever
  • Sleep problems

Opioid withdrawal symptoms begin relatively quickly but can last for months after use. Due to their recurring and continuous symptoms, those that had gone through treatment may return to using. Thus the need for long term continued support and great treatment centers with a plethora of resources. 

What are the different opiate treatment options?

The first step for those facing the struggle of opiate addiction is admittance. Once they have come to terms with needing help for their addiction they will need to attend a treatment center.


The first step in treatment for those with an opiate addiction is attending a treatment center for detoxification and stabilization. Opioid withdrawal symptoms can be difficult to handle. Treatment Centers, like ours here at Northbound offering our 180 Detox program, provides a safe and comfortable environment. During the detox process at a treatment program, those struggling are able to receive round-the-clock medical supervision. During the process of detox, medications such as naltrexone are employed to ease those from dependence. 

We here at Northbound understand that every client who enters Northbound is different and requires a different treatment program. We are then able to provide a customized treatment plan that takes into account his or her individual needs. From there we are able to adjust opioid treatment as necessary during the progression of the program.  

Inpatient and Outpatient Treatment

Inpatient treatment is generally a longer treatment plan than other more traditional rehab programs. They provide a range of benefits like those focused on the necessary psychological benefits like learning to cope. They also provide the resources and tools to avoid relapse, such as locations for NAA meetings. Inpatient treatment centers provide meals packed with nutrition, exercise, and the assessment of their mental health. Pain management programs are designed as well to prevent the use of opiate pain medication. 

Outpatient treatment centers will offer many of the same benefits as an inpatient treatment facility but those suffering will be able to go home. This is a great option for those needing to attend to other responsibilities like work. 

Both inpatient and outpatient treatment centers will have therapy options like group, family, and individual for those suffering. 


Once those attending a rehab facility are finished they will have continuous opioid treatment. The treatment for opioid addiction varies depending upon the level of dependency. Many will need to attend group meetings and need to have meetings with a counselor. Some may join sober living programs which are also known as half-way-houses. In these facilities, they will live together but go to work and support one another for the transition back into society.

Is There Opiate Addiction Treatment at Northbound? 

Northbound provides a fully integrated treatment that clients need to overcome opiate addiction and co-occurring disorders. A team of providers works with clients one-on-one and in group settings to address substance use and mental health challenges that impact recovery. Clients receive the personalized care and treatment they need to make positive changes in their lives, reduce the risk for relapse, and learn how to truly thrive in recovery.

Here at Northbound, we offer a holistic approach to treatment for opioid addiction and any other substance abuse disorder. This ensures that clients have access to the full continuum of care. We offer a variety of programs. Such programs are those like our single-gender CORE program or our Christian LINKS program. All of our programs attend to the client’s physical, mental and spiritual needs.

At Northbound, we want to be there with you to celebrate your first year of sobriety. We will provide the transitional support and aftercare program support necessary. These will help to ensure an effective reintegration into everyday life. We are proud to offer our services of teaching life skills and coping mechanisms and special counseling for family and loved ones. Northbound’s opiate addiction rehab program in Orange County is committed to helping those struggling with an opiate addiction get a new start on a healthier, sober life. Contact us today to begin. Call us at (844) 919-0403.





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