Understanding the Signs of Opioid Addiction

Apr 03, 2024

Understanding the Signs of Opioid Addiction

Understanding the Signs of Opioid Addiction

Opioids describe a specific class of narcotic drugs often used for pain management. Illegal forms of this drug include heroin, and common prescription forms include: 

  • Codeine
  • Morphine
  • Methadone 
  • Oxycodone (OxyContin®)
  • Hydrocodone (Vicodin®)
  • Meperidine (Demerol®)
  • Fentanyl
  • Percocet

While opioids can provide powerful results as a pain management tool, both legal and illegal opioids can be highly addictive. Approximately 21-29% of men and women misuse opioid medications prescribed for chronic pain. And an estimated 80% of illicit heroin users first used prescription opioids.

Sirisat Khalsa, MD, is double board-certified in family and addiction medicine. Under Dr. Khalsa’s leadership, the team at Clarity Medical Group in Sherman Oaks, California, offers a highly personalized and multi-pronged treatment approach. The Clarity team combines extensive experience and the latest tools in a supportive, judgment-free environment. 

In this blog, Dr. Khalsa explains how opioids affect your brain and outlines signs that may indicate addiction.

What makes opioids addictive

Opioid addiction affects people from all walks of life, regardless of age, gender, race, or income. That’s because opioids cause specific changes in your brain and body that impact your ability to take them in safe ways.

Your brain

When you take an opioid, your brain releases endorphins. These neurotransmitters make you feel good by boosting your sensation of pleasure and creating a powerful sense of well-being. They also dull any perceptions you may have of pain.

Your body

The longer you take opioids, the fewer endorphins your body makes. When this occurs, you no longer experience the same surge of pleasure when taking the drug — you’ve built up a “tolerance” to its effects. And if you have a tolerance, you need to take more to feel good, creating an addiction.

These changes also make it difficult to stop using opioids because you can develop a wide range of severe side effects if you stop taking them suddenly.

The signs of opioid use disorder

It may not always be obvious when someone has an opioid addiction. However, there are often signs present that indicate a problem, including:

  • Taking opioids in larger amounts or over a longer period than prescribed
  • Having a persistent desire or unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control opioid use
  • Spending excessive time obtaining, using, or recovering from the effects of opioids
  • Craving opioids
  • An inability to fulfill social, work, or school responsibilities due to recurrent opioid use
  • Continuing to use opioids despite it causing ongoing social or interpersonal problems
  • Abandoning or reducing professional or recreational activities due to opioid use
  • Recurrent opioid use in physically hazardous situations
  • Continuing opioid use despite an awareness of their physical or psychological effects
  • Developing a tolerance 

Unfortunately, without treatment, opioid addiction can become life-threatening, even with legally prescribed medications.

Treating opioid addiction

At Clarity Medical Group, our addiction providers offer support for underlying issues such as anxiety along with your behavioral addiction and substance use disorder. 

With multiple detox approaches, they offer a highly personalized approach to patient treatment. Individualized programs may include one or more of the following: medication, such as Suboxone®, Sublocade®, or Brixadi®; genetic testing, in-depth nutritional deficiency testing; exercise, and medication. 

If you have questions about opioid addiction, contact Dr. Khalsa at the Clarity Medical Group. Call 707-896-3760 or request an in-person or telehealth appointment via the online booking tool.