What Are Opioids?
Opioids are a class of powerful drugs that are routinely prescribed to treat severe pain, but they can also be associated with problematic use or, in some cases, fatal overdose.
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What To Look For
Signs & Symptoms
Opioid addiction is defined by a group of signs, symptoms, and behaviors that indicate a person is both physically and psychologically dependent on the substance. Opioid addiction involves more than just physical dependence. For example, a cancer patient who is prescribed opioids for severe pain may experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop taking the medication but is not addicted. Opioid addiction also involves psychological dependence. This means that the drug is so central to the person’s life that the need to keep using becomes a craving or compulsion, even if the person knows that using is harmful.
Cravings and increasing tolerance may lead the person to buy drugs on the street or go to more than one doctor to get the same drug. They may smoke, snort, crush, or inject the drug in order to feel high faster and more intensely. This could affect their relationships with family members or friends, or cause a person to neglect their responsibilities.
Examples of Signs & Symptoms
Prolonged Use & Overuse
Using over a longer period or using more than planned.
Need To Quit & Unsuccessful Quitting
Wanting to quit or cut down, or trying unsuccessfully to quit.
Spending a lot of time and effort getting, using and recovering from opioids.
Experiencing cravings and fixitating on next dose.
Decreased Productivity & Responsibilities
Failing to fulfill responsibilities at work, school or home as a result of opioid use.
Disregard Of Consequences
Continuing to use opioids despite the negative social consequences caused by opioid use.
Disinterest In Hobbies
Giving up activities that were once enjoyable.
Needing to take more of the drug to get the same effect (tolerance, a sign of physical dependence).
Feeling ill when opioid use suddenly stops (withdrawal, a sign of physical dependence.
Dangerous Intake Methods
Crushing, snorting, smoking or injecting opioids.
Visiting Multiple Providers Or Street
Drawing on many sources for opioids (e.g., prescriptions from two or more physicians or both a prescription and street opioids).
Showing signs of opioid intoxication (e.g., nodding off, pinpoint pupils).
An opioid misuse disorder is defined as a problematic pattern of opioid use that leads to serious impairment or distress. Doctors use a specific set of criteria to determine if a person has a substance use problem. To be diagnosed with an opioid use disorder, a person must have 2 symptoms within a 12-month period of time.
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The turning point in my life as it related to alcohol and drugs was Friday morning, August 21, 1992. I woke up that morning and I looked in the mirror and I did not know the person looking back at me. What I did know about that person is, I didn’t like him.
Recognizing the phases of drug use is crucial for raising awareness and implementing effective intervention strategies.
Dean Stephens, a dedicated advocate for community development and recovery, brings a wealth of experience to his role as the Director of Development at WakeUp Carolina’s Berkeley County Office.