Opioid Addiction - Drug and Alcohol

Why Is Opioid Abuse Dangerous?

Opioid abuse is the most dangerous form of drug abuse. In 2021, drug overdoses topped 100,000 for the first time in US history.

Why Is Opioid Abuse Dangerous?

Table of contents

Written by

Brian MooreBrian Moore

Content Writer

Reviewed by

Jeremy ArztJeremy Arzt

Chief Clinical Officer

January 4, 2023

The Forge Recovery Center

Drug addiction is a common problem worldwide among millennials, Gen Y, and zoomers. Besides conventional addictions such as alcohol, younger people are also getting addicted to different types of drugs and medicines. One such type of medicine is opioid prescription painkillers. Pain medication is often a gateway drug to opioid abuse.

People facing this issue encounter severe physical and mental illnesses. However, these are curable if diagnosed in the initial stages. Scroll down to know some unknown facts, treatments, and other details of opioid abuse and opioid addiction.

Opioid Abuse: The Stages

Continued abuse of opioid drugs makes one addicted. As a result, people become very vulnerable and lose control over their bodies and mind.

The stages of opioid addiction are as follows:

  • Tolerance: In the first stage, the human brain becomes used to the doses of opioids and functions according to them. So in this stage, our body tolerates these drugs.

  • Dependence: In this stage, the human body starts depending on these drugs to function properly as they provide relief from certain physical aches or conditions. Further, not getting access to these drugs causes cravings and restlessness.

  • Abuse: This is the stage where opioid abuse occurs, which refers to taking opioid drugs in illicit ways from multiple sources. This becomes fatal over time and leads to severe physical and psychological illness.

  • Opioid Use Disorder: This is the final stage of opioid addiction, where the human body becomes numb, and the brain loses its functional capability. Losing impulse control and behavioral disorders are also signs of it.

Dangers of Opioid Abuse: An Overview

The use of opioids in pain-relieving medicines is necessary to calm the pain caused by inflammatory sensations inside our bodies. These medicines attach opioid receptors in brain cells that numb the pain and boost the sensation of pleasure. Hence, if one uses it continuously, it creates a sort of dependency and results in dangerous disorders.

Triggers of Opioid Abuse

There are certain physical and/or emotional events that tempt people towards opioid abuse. External triggers may involve people, activities, or places that influence one to use opioids again. Internal triggers are one’s own emotions that cause temptations to opioid usage.

Euphoric Sensation

Opioid-infused drugs reduce pain by the secretion of neurotransmitters. These neurotransmitters are happy hormones that create a euphoric state in the human mind and give pleasure. Thus, addicts become used to this euphoria and indulge in opioid abuse.


Any form of physical or emotional stress, long-term or short-term, can push an individual to use opioids again. This is to cope with the stress. Overconsumption of opioid pills makes brain cells inactive and weak. This further leads to disturbances in thought processes and people lose control over their emotions and impulses.

Physical or Mental Illness

Anxiety, depression, physical pain, ache, or similar conditions can lead to situations that trigger opioid abuse. Also, these conditions can themselves be triggers for certain individuals.

What are the Types of Opioids?

There are several types of opioids. These are as follows:

  • Oxycodone

  • Hydrocodone

  • Morphine

  • Codeine

  • Fentanyl

  • Tapentadol

  • Methadone

  • Oxymorphone

Morphine and fentanyl are very common and used in most painkillers. Heroin is another opioid drug made from morphine, which is a global threat.

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Short-term and Long-term Side Effects of Opioid Abuse

The potential side effects of opioid abuse are as follows:

  • Over-secretion of endorphins, which makes people addicted to these medicines

  • Sleepiness and drowsy feeling all the time

  • Nausea and vomiting

Signs of Opioid Abuse

Opioid abuse is a crucial stage that may eventually lead to opioid addiction if left untreated or undetected. There are certain signs that help detect opioid abuse, as discussed.


Depression is one of the significant issues that people with opioid addiction face. Doctors know the addictive tendencies of opioid drugs, so they are not easily accessible from counters. Without the drugs, addicts tend to suffer from depression as they no longer feel a flush of happy hormones.


Addicts tend to become lonely and avoid their friends and families. They somewhat create their own periphery and live there alone. However, this worsens the whole situation and makes them more prone to addiction.

Appetite Disorder

Another opioid abuse problem is a disorder in appetite. People may lose their appetites or start eating more. This will eventually impact their bodies in a negative way.

Cognitive Disorder

Opioid abuse leads to severe cognitive issues, such as not being able to understand or react promptly, saying things that don’t make sense, etc. Further, it also affects nerves and motor skills in the long term.


Being nervous and cranky is one of the harmful effects of opioid abuse. The overconsumption of such drugs weakens the brain cells, reducing the potential to be active and confident in challenging situations.

Other Issues

Apart from these, there are some other impacts, such as

  • Disturbed sleeping schedule

  • Problems in understanding financial or complex situations

  • Missing important work

  • Being inactive in daily activities

  • Frequent mood changes

Opioid Abuse Treatment

The extreme stage of opioid abuse is Opioid Use Disorder or OUD, which is highly fatal. However, if detected in the initial stages, recovery from opioid abuse is certainly possible with proper care and treatment.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) agency prescribes 3 medicines for OUD; these are methadone, naltrexone, and buprenorphine. The following points will discuss the roles these medicines play in opioid abuse treatment.

Medicines Used in Opioid Abuse Treatment

As morphine and heroin block the receptors of human cells, the withdrawal symptoms from these opioids create a sensation of pain. Thus, at this time, opioid agonist medicines like methadone and buprenorphine activate mu-opioid receptors and help to calm the withdrawal symptoms. These medicines play an important role in medication-assisted treatment or MAT. MAT is an emerging form of treatment in which prescription medications are used to treat drug addiction.

Methadone: Methadone is a full agonist that completely occupies mu-opioid receptor to lessen the withdrawal symptom. Methadone is an effective medicine for dealing with compulsive behavior.

Buprenorphine: Buprenorphine is a partial agonist; thus, it should be taken repeatedly for better results. Also, the chances of overdosing are not high due to its relatively low effect.

Naltrexone: Naltrexone is an opioid antagonist that generally blocks mu-opioid receptors so that they cannot respond to opioids. Therefore, this medicine is not for withdrawal management symptoms; instead, it is for abstinence-based treatment.

More information on medications for opioid use disorder is available from Pew Research.

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Psychological Treatment for Opioid Abuse

Opioid abuse and mental health are interconnected, so dual diagnosis treatment is most effective in dealing with psychological issues. Dual diagnosis treatment method refers to providing support for drug abuse problems alongside mental disorders. This also helps opioid abusers handle post-treatment depression. The beneficial aspects of psychological treatments are:

  • Treats behavioral disorders

  • Helps with other existing mental health problems

  • Encourages patients to take medicines and follow up with the treatment

Opioid Withdrawal Symptoms

If one is practicing opioid abuse for a long time, then during the initial step of treatment, the person may face severe withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms are as follows.

Drug Cravings

One of the main withdrawal symptoms is the craving for drugs. It is very normal due to the dependency of the human body on these drugs.


As soon as the treatment starts and addicts stop getting opioids, they start to get anxious. This is because, during this treatment phase, the secretion of neurotransmitters falls down. Eventually, this sudden break leads to anxiety and irritation.


Insomnia may occur as a withdrawal symptom as patients face hindrances in brain functions. So they face disturbing sleepy schedules very often.


Abstinence from opioid abuse causes severe tremors. This is because the human body loses its motor skills due to overusing opioids.


Opioids generally block several bodily sensations, such as pain, etc. So, when people abstain from opioids, they start feeling those sensations once again, but in an extreme state. Feeling too cold is such an instance that is quite challenging for them to handle.

Other Symptoms

Apart from these, patients may face other withdrawal symptoms, such as severe abdominal pain, diarrhea, vomiting, etc., due to the sudden absence of opioids.

How to Help People Who Face Opioid Abuse?

People who face opioid addiction need supportive behavior and help from their friends and family members. A few suggestions on how to help opioid abusers are as follows:

Check the Symptoms

During the initial stages of opioid abuse, one may not show every symptom; however, with time, they begin to show the underlying symptoms.

  • Staying drowsy all the time

  • Being unhygienic

  • Getting into flu frequently

  • Decreased libido

  • Disturbed sleeping schedule

  • Tendency to stay isolated

A family member, caregiver, or friend must check for the aforementioned symptoms in a loved one.

Opioid overdose is the next stage of opioid abuse and can be severe and fatal. The symptoms of overdose include:

  • Inability to talk

  • Dark-lip and blue-skin

  • Slow breathing

  • Extreme drowsiness

  • Unusual gurgling sound

How to Respond to an Opioid Overdose

After confirming these symptoms, one should immediately take the patient to a treatment center for starting the process of rehab for opioid abuse and the applicable medications. Also, these patients should get complete mental support from their friends and family so they can overcome challenging situations quickly.

Furthermore, these patients should get continuous encouragement to routinely continue and follow up with the treatment. If one notices these symptoms in a patient with opioid overdose, the following actions should be taken.

  • Step 1: A caregiver should lightly shake or shout to get a response from the patient.

  • Step 2: If one is not getting any response, one should rub the sternum (breastbone) of the abuser for a response. If this works, then the patient should stay awake.

  • Step 3: A caregiver may provide prescribed medicines, from a healthcare practitioner, to calm the effects of an overdose.

  • Step 4: A caregiver may also perform mouth-to-mouth respiration if the patient gets dark lips or blue skin. This will help to clear the airway and enhance respiration.

  • Step 5: A caregiver should perform CPR if the patient becomes numb and does not respond in a proper way.

  • Step 6: A caregiver should call the emergency number and stay with the patient until help arrives.

Remember, minutes matter during an opioid overdose.

Things to Consider While Taking Opioids

Though opioids are addictive, they are necessary to be used as medicines to treat specific physical issues. So, if one adheres to certain precautions, then the risks of addiction will be low. These are as follows:

  • Consider taking medicines as per dosage and prescription

  • Refrain from chewing, breaking, or dissolving opioid pills

  • If getting side effects, contact a physician immediately

  • Check instructions before using

In our times, opioid abuse is a serious issue that should be taken properly care of after identification. Even though the process is long and challenging to follow, it can be curable with proper support from a dedicated caregiver and an expert treatment center. Proper support, on-time medication, and effective treatment phases are always the right combinations in getting one back to a healthy and happy lifestyle.

The Forge Recovery Center Provides Evidence-Based Care for Opioid Addiction

As a well-known opioid abuse treatment center, The Forge Recovery Center provides expert dual diagnosis care for addiction and psychological issues. So, if you or a loved one is struggling with a mental disorder for the treatment of opioid abuse, you can get full support from us. Here we do this with customized plans, engaging patients in fun activities, adventurous trips, etc. Further, we also strengthen social bonds by creating a strong community.

Thus, to get the comprehensive benefits of dual treatment, contact The Forge Recovery Center today.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the risk factors of opioid abuse?

There are some potential risk factors of opioid abuse. These are poverty, criminal activity, unemployment, depression, unstable mental condition, risk-taking attitudes, family history of substance abuse, excessive tobacco usage, etc.

What to do for opioid abuse prevention?

To prevent opioid addiction, one should take opioids only after consultation with one’s physician and as per proper guidelines. Further, one should not take opioids if facing chronic pain issues, as other effective treatments are available. In addition, staying in a loving and supportive environment will help prevent abuse.

How to store and dispose of opioids?

One should keep opioids safe and secure and refrain from sharing prescriptions with others. One should not throw these medicines away along with domestic trash, instead dispose of these drugs in garbage bins allocated specifically for medical waste.

What medicines can lead to opioid overdose?

Opioid overdose is a severe issue, and one should get immediate medical attention. Naloxone is a life-saving drug that can save adverse situations due to opioid overdose. This is a widely available medicine worldwide and is used as a cure for OUD.

What is the general duration of opioid abuse treatment?

Depending on the symptoms of opioid abuse, the duration of treatment may last from 6-12 months. However, it is uniquely designed and is different for every individual; one should get aftercare if required.

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