Surefire Signs Your Loved One is Abusing Opioids [Fentanyl, Heroin]

Opioid abuse has many well-known adverse effects. But how can you tell if someone using opioids? how can you tell if someone is using heroin or fentanyl?

The consequences of opioid use are serious and often lead to intense physical dependence. When someone becomes addicted to opioids, the possibility of harm rises dramatically.

Eventually, the signs of opioid use are impossible to hide. We will tell you all you need to know. Reach out for help today if you’d like to speak to someone about treatment options for yourself or a loved one (888) 906-0952.

The word “Opioid” refers to heroin, fentanyl, carfentanyl, Oxycodone (Oxycontin), or any other drug classed as an opioid.

Table of Contents

Why Are Opioids So Addictive?

The most significant side effect of long-term Opioid abuse is addiction. An opioid is one of the most addictive substances on earth. How does this happen?

The answer is somewhat complicated. Opioid creates a chemical dependency by directly affecting the brain.

A user who injects opioids into a vein will experience a wave of euphoria, known colloquially as the “rush.” If they snort or smoke the drug, the feeling will be even more intense.

After feeling the rush, users will feel sedated. To everyday users, the sense of tranquility following the rush is known as being “on the nod.” The effects of the high “include detachment from physical and emotional pain and a feeling of well-being.”

Abusing opioids could cause addiction within as few as two weeks of regular use. This fact does not mean it is safe to use the drug less or recreationally. Few people who experiment with Opioid use do so only occasionally.

However, those who can use it less frequently build a tolerance to the drug after a while. They then need more of it to get the same high. Over time, this turns into physical dependence and addiction.

Brain scan research has shown that long-term use of Opioids changes the way our brains work. The full extent of these changes is unknown, but it seems likely they have something to do with changing how our brains reward behavior. This is why Opioid addiction can be so powerful.

Dopamine is the brain chemical that creates new neural pathways that “‘teach’ the brain to seek drugs at the expense of other, healthier goals.”

Addiction is not only a long-term side effect; it is often the only reason many people use Opioids for as long as they do.

Long-term Effects of Opioid Abuse

When someone who abuses Opioids develops an addiction, there is a good chance they will become a long-term user (if they don’t seek treatment).

 Opioid abuse over a long period can have many negative effects on the user. Some of these effects can last a lifetime, and several could result in death if left untreated.

Here are just a few of the effects that could happen to anyone who uses an Opioid over an extended period:

  • having a vein collapse (due to Opioid injection)
  • damaged nasal tissue or perforated septum (due to snorting or sniffing opioids)
  • insomnia
  • pneumonia or other related lung complications
  • stomach cramps
  • dangerous infection in the lining of your heart or heart valves
  • abscess at the point of injection
  • constipation
  • liver disease
  • kidney disease
  • depression or other related mental health issues
  • antisocial personality disorder
  • disrupted menstrual cycles
  • erectile dysfunction

All of the above side effects could happen to anyone who abuses Opioids for too long. Above all, it is essential to remember that these are only the most common side effects. Any number of other side effects can present themselves with regular use.

These side effects are only related to long-term Opioid use alone. But drugs in the opioid class are rarely used in their pure form. Often, dealers cut the drugs with other substances.

For example, Opioids are cut with sugar, powdered milk, or even starch. These substances can clog up the blood vessels running to several vital organs. These organs include the liver, lungs, kidneys, and even the brain.

Over time, regular use of these substances can lead to permanent damage. And those substances are the safer ones. Opioid incorrectly cut with fentanyl often leads to overdose.

Infection of the Heart Lining and Valves

One of the long-term side effects of Opioid use is a dangerous heart infection called infective endocarditis. If you take Opioids by injection, this kind of infection could happen to you.

In one area hit hard by the opioid epidemic, the infection rate rose 436 percent between 2012 and 2017. Traditionally, this condition has mostly affected older people with heart issues.

When someone has this type of infection, doctors often have to remove the damaged tissue in the heart. Afterward, they will need to replace the valve with artificial material.

However, this procedure can often lead to more issues. The valve surgery makes it more likely to get the same kind of infection, leading to compounding issues later on.

Without treatment, patients can suffer a variety of other symptoms. These symptoms include fatigue and shortness of breath. The infection can even lead to a heart attack or a stroke.

Unfortunately, many of these symptoms persist even after doctors cure the infection.

The Side Effects When Opioids Wearing Off

After the high wears off, the side effects can include:

  • being sore or having a dull pain in your muscles or bones
  • have chills run throughout your body when it isn’t cold
  • experiencing nausea or throwing up
  • suddenly developing insomnia or being unable to sleep
  • experiencing unexpected nervousness or anxiety
  • scratching compulsively or having a general itchy feeling

There will, of course, be other side effects. The above list only gives us the most common short-term side effects of Opioid use.

Other effects, which are not as commonly stated, include social stigma and cravings. Opioids like opioids create pleasure, and this feeling can cause people to want to use it again.

All of these side effects pale compared to the effects you might experience over a more extended period of use. If you struggle with Opioid addiction (or any other form of substance abuse), you are not alone.

The path to recovery is steep, but no one has to travel it alone. Undergoing treatment or counseling for Opioid addiction is one of the best chances to begin healing. Whatever the case, we are here to help.

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Effects on The Brain From Opioids

Previously, we addressed the side effects of long-term opioid addiction. We also discussed the changes it causes to the brain. Here, we will explain what exactly happens when you abuse Opioids over a long period.

Heroin, Fentanyl, Oxycodone (Oxycontin), and Percocet are all members of the opioid family. This family includes several other types of drugs, including morphine, codeine, and methadone.

Heroin specifically is made from morphine which is chemically processed. All opioids have similar effects on the brain, but since Opioid is more potent, it has more impact.

Whether an Opioid user injects, smokes, or snorts, the chemical travels to the brain. Once there, the Opioid binds to specific receptors called mu-opioid receptors (MORs).

Opioid receptors are responsible for controlling pain and reward behaviors in human beings. This combination is part of the reason why opioids are so addictive. Opioid not only messes with the way our brain rewards good habits but also targets the receptors responsible for feeling pain.

According to one study, users who abused heroin and methadone had similar brain damage to someone with Alzheimer’s. The damage affected those areas of the brain responsible for learning and emotional well-being.

More specifically, the affected regions were the prefrontal cortex, basal ganglia, and amygdala. The prefrontal cortex is the part of the brain responsible for thinking. The basal ganglia are the part of the brain where habits form.

Many of the changes seen in the brain are related to addiction. But it is not the only long-term effect on the brain. What these studies show us is many parts of the brain are experiencing damage.

If you find yourself addicted to opioids, it is essential to find a way to begin recovery as soon as possible. If you believe a loved one is addicted, seek quick intervention.

Surefire Signs of Opioid Addiction

Knowing the side effects of long-term use is enough to make anyone reconsider using opioids. It is never worth it. But as we already discussed, in many cases, it can be difficult to quit.

If you are worried a loved one might have become addicted or think you have become addicted yourself, here are some surefire signs that addiction has taken hold.

These are signs someone has become addicted to an Opioid:

  • experiencing cravings or urges
  • taking opioids in risky situations
  • use over a long period
  • doing more than initially planned
  • getting sick or ill when you stop using opioids (otherwise known as having withdrawals)
  • giving up activities that you used to like so you can do more opioids
  • failing to maintain responsibilities (can be for work, school, or chores at home)
  • continuing to use the drug despite the negative social stigma associated with it
  • needing to take more opioids to get the same high you used to get

Of course, if you are concerned about whether a loved one uses opioids, you might not know or see the above signs.

In this case, look and see if they are exhibiting the classic physical symptoms of Opioid intoxication:

  • pinpoint pupils
  • “nodding off” (or very sleepy)
  • slow thinking and slow movement

If they are exhibiting any of the above signs, they may be using opioids. After they come down, be sure to watch for any of the short-term effects we describe above.

Opioid addiction is dangerous, and loved ones are often in denial about what is happening. Do not be afraid to have a conversation.

Knowing these signs of addiction and intoxication can help you avoid the adverse outcomes of long-term Opioid use.

Where To Find Help For An Opioid Addiction

Whatever the case might be, trying to find help for Opioid addiction can be a struggle. If you are worried about the long-term health effects of Opioid use, consider seeking help.

Recovery is already a complicated process. You do not need to make it harder by attempting to do it alone.

One of the best options is to seek treatment. Counseling and therapy have some of the highest rates of success for substance abuse. There are several available options, including inpatient and outpatient clinics.

Whether you decide to seek treatment or not, don’t be afraid to call for more help. We would be happy to answer any questions you might have or provide more information about addiction. If you want to call us, our number is (888) 906-0952 Call anytime.


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Our writers are experienced in everything related to addiction, mental health, rehab and recovery.

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