5 Signs of Opioid Dependence and Addiction

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, opioid use was already labeled a crisis in the United States. After lockdowns and isolation, this crisis has greatly elevated — deaths by overdose in the US topped 100,000 in the 12-month period ending April 2021, which is almost a 30% increase over the same time period a year earlier. Of these deaths, nearly 75% are attributed to opioids.

Dr. Daniel Headrick and the team here at Tres Vistas Recovery are greatly concerned by these emerging numbers and we want to do our part to bring them down. To that end, we outline five of the more common signs that you or a loved one may have developed an opioid use disorder.

1. Withdrawal symptoms

There are two sides to an opioid use disorder — dependence and addiction. Dependence refers to the reliance your body has developed toward the opioids, which create the withdrawal symptoms when you try and stop using. With opioids, these withdrawal symptoms can be quite severe and include:

  • Tremors and shaking
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Muscle cramps
  • Excessive yawning
  • Anxiety

These symptoms can range from mild to severe and often last from 24-72 hours, or more.

2. Uncontrollable cravings

The addiction piece of the puzzle is harder to pin down, but it’s equally, if not more, powerful than dependence. Addiction refers to the rewiring in your brain that favors using opioids, which leads to, among other things, uncontrollable urges.

Perhaps you wake each day resolved to stop taking opioids, but, within hours, your brain overrides this resolve and you’re quickly back at it. These cravings are strong and extremely hard to resist as your brain works hard to justify using opioids.

3. Obsession

With addiction, your brain becomes obsessed with opioids. This obsession is relentless and overshadows most everything else in your life. When you’re not using, you’re trying to figure out how and when you will get your next fix.

4. Increasing isolation

This sign of opioid addiction is one that is likely fueling the jump in opioid disorder deaths recently. Under normal circumstances, people with an opioid use disorder tend to isolate more as the opioids become the center of their existence. 

By isolating and hiding, you avoid judgment and you feel more “free” to pursue opioids. Of course, this can be very dangerous as you’re not held accountable for your use or your actions.

Thanks to the isolation of the COVID-19 pandemic, people tended to use more and weren’t able to access friends, family, or support groups who might have kept them in check. As a result, opioid disorder deaths rose considerably in the last two years.

5. Change in behaviors

Another red flag occurs when your obsession and uncontrollable cravings converge, prompting you to engage in behaviors you were otherwise incapable of doing. For example, you lie, steal, and cheat to use opioids — even from family and friends.

While there are more potential warning signs of an opioid use disorder, these rank among the more pervasive. If you recognize any of these signs, we urge you to contact us for help. We offer a wide range of services, including detoxification, medically assisted treatments, intensive inpatient and outpatient programs, and ongoing support services that can help you break free from an opioid problem.

To learn more, contact our office in San Juan Capistrano, California, by clicking here.

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