Opiates are classified as narcotic drugs, which carry a high potential for addiction. Opiates consist of both illegal and prescription medications, some of which include:
Opiates can be taken in pill form, snorted, injected as well as mixed with other types of drugs. It’s not uncommon for someone to go from taking an opiate prescription as prescribed to abusing the drug. Even when used as a pain treatment medication, the potential for abuse is there.
While primarily used to treat pain-related conditions, opiates also produce euphoric feelings of well-being and calm. They do this by altering brain neural pathways, even in cases where a person only takes them for short periods of time. According to a New York University-Langone Medical Center report, opiates continue to alter brain functions for as long as a person keeps using.
These changes in brain function create a domino effect that drives a person to keep taking the drug as tolerance levels continue to rise. Gradually, a person will require larger and larger doses to satisfy cravings. After a while, getting and using opiates starts to take over a person’s life. Relationships, social obligations and even work responsibilities start to suffer. At this point, signs of opiate addiction start to appear.
Opiate abuse, in and of itself, doesn’t necessarily mean a person has become addicted to the drug. Opiate abuse develops from the body’s physical dependency on the drug’s effects. Signs of opiate addiction only develop once users start to believe they need the drug to carry out everyday tasks and responsibilities. It’s this psychological component that ultimately makes the signs of opiate addiction hard to miss.
Physical Signs of Opiate Addiction
Though seldom noticeable, the damaging effects of opiates on the mind and body start from day one. Signs of opiate addiction develop as the body’s mental and physical processes start to breakdown. Opiate sedative effects slow down all bodily functions, but the most noticeable change appears in a person’s respiration rate. People addicted to opiates tend to breathe at an unusually slow rate compared to non-users.
Another noticeable sign of opiate addiction appears as very small eye pupils. Over time, an opiate addiction can cause a person to feel exhausted much of the time to the point where he or she may slip in and out of consciousness. Loss of consciousness may occur sporadically or become an ongoing condition. This sign of opiate addiction in particular may indicate a person is at risk of overdosing.
As opiate drugs affect different people in different ways, certain risk factors can make a person more susceptible to addiction. Risk factors have to do with a person’s background, psychological history and medication usage history. For example, someone who’s been on pain pills for a long time may be exhibiting a sign of opiate addiction.
Other risk factors to watch out for include:
- A family history of drug addiction
- Episodes of depression and/or anxiety
- Ongoing medication needs
- Being male
- Being younger than 30 years old