Signs and symptoms of opioid use disorder begin with physical and mental changes like mood swings, depression, anxiety, constipation, and lack of coordination. Prescription drugs that alleviate acute and chronic pain can escalate into an out-of-control disorder quickly. Therefore, education from the physician prescribing the medication can help to recognize symptoms of addiction. You might have experienced an injury or surgery and need short-term pain relief or have chronic pain as a result. In these cases, it can be easy to misuse opioids and develop an addiction.
What are Opioids?
Opioids are a class of drugs prescribed to relieve acute or chronic pain. These drugs directly affect the brain, blocking or reducing pain signals while inducing euphoria and good feelings. Opioids cause the brain to release feel-good chemicals that can cause an addiction. This effect makes them popular for Veterans dealing with physical pain from combat or other injuries. Unfortunately, long-term painkillers can lead to heroin use, which is easier to access and cheaper than prescription opioids.
The following natural and synthetic drugs are in the opioid class of drugs:
- Fentanyl: Actiq, Duragesic, Sublimaze
- Opium: a mixture of morphine and codeine
- Heroin: diacetylmorphine and diamorphine
- Codeine: naturally in the sap of the opium poppy, Papaver somniferum
- Morphine: Kadian, MS-Contin, Oramorph SR, MSIR
- Oxycodone: OxyContin
- Methadone: Dolophine, Methadose
- Sufentanil: Sufenta
- Tramadol: Ultram
- Hydrocodone: Vicodin
- Oxymorphone: Opana
Side Effects of Opioid Use
When a medical professional prescribes opioids and the user follows the prescribed medication rules, opioids are generally safe as pain relievers. The side effects of opioid usage are commonly a combination of mental and physical symptoms. Misusing prescription opioids brings on more signs and symptoms of opioid disorder as a result.
Negative health consequences from the misuse of opioids can manifest in the following physical and mental problems:
- Mental health disorders, like anxiety and depression
- Risk of opioid overdose and death
- Muscle weakness and cramping
- Organ damage, including brain and heart
- Inadequate production of endorphins in the brain
Risk Factors of Opioid Addiction
Genetic, environmental, and behavioral factors are risk factors for developing opioid substance disorder. The misuse of opioid prescriptions can sometimes lead to addiction. Thus, realizing that signs and symptoms of opioid disorder are present can be an important turning point for Veterans. Anyone who takes prescription opioids is in danger of misuse or addiction. Being aware of the risk factors before taking these dangerous prescriptions could make a difference in how a person uses the drugs.
The following are risk factors for developing an addiction to opioids:
- History of addiction or addiction in the family
- Tobacco addiction
- History of risk-taking behaviors
- Mental illness, anxiety, and/or depression
- Stress, poverty, and unemployment
- Difficulties in relationships
Signs and Symptoms of Opioid Use Disorder
The signs and symptoms of opioid use disorder can begin with developing a tolerance to the effects of the medication. Tolerance can cause increased usage and the ‘need’ for more than the prescribed dosage. Sweating, dry mouth, and confusion, combined with constipation and itching, might occur when a person attempts to cut back or quit using opioids. Recognizing these signs and symptoms, therefore, is vital to realize a problem exists.
Other symptoms can include the following physical, mental, and social issues:
- Physical symptoms: loss of coordination, shallow breathing, nausea, vomiting, shakiness, and slurred speech
- Mental symptoms: less motivation, depression, anxiety, mood swings, poor decision making as well as losing a sense of self while ignoring responsibilities
- Social Issues: feeling isolated, problems with family and friends, distancing from loved ones, and irritability during relationships
Signs of an Opioid Overdose
An overdose on opioids needs to be dealt with immediately to reduce the risk of permanent injury or death. Thousands of people die each year in the US due to opioid overdose. Therefore, calling 9-1-1 should be done immediately to quickly get care for a Veteran having an overdose.
Evaluate the addict and relay the following symptoms to emergency medical staff:
- Loss of consciousness
- Pale complexion, small pupils, and clammy skin
- Unresponsive, slow or no breathing, and limp body
Getting Treatment for Opioid Use Disorder
When prescribed opioids for pain, it is essential to speak with your physician and express your concerns if you feel like you have lost control over the amount of pain relief you need. Making the step to voice your concerns and ask for help is also the beginning of a recovery journey from opioid use disorder. Making note of your signs and symptoms with opioid use disorder and relaying information to your physician or mental health professional is vital. In addition, you and your healthcare provider can begin making a treatment plan for recovery immediately.
Opioid Use Disorder Treatment for US Veterans
If you are experiencing the signs and symptoms of opioid use disorder and are ready to reach out for help, reach out to Sunrise Veterans Health. We have physicians and mental health professionals experienced with Veterans dealing with chronic pain who then find themselves addicted to opioids. Our mental health staff can also help Veterans recover from the underlying issues of addiction. Some of these include mental health disorders common among vets, like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Visit our admissions page today to begin your recovery journey.