Symptoms and Signs of Opioid Abuse and Addiction

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Medically Reviewed on 3/21/2019

Doctor's Notes on Opioid Abuse and Addiction

Opioid abuse is when a person misuses opioid drugs (for example, morphine, codeine, hydrocodone, oxycodone) that are prescribed to treat pain. Addiction is a compulsive physiological need for and use of a habit-forming substance like opioid drugs (or behavior activity), despite adverse consequences. Signs and symptoms of opioid abuse include taking opioids in other ways than instructed like taking more drug more often, getting opioids from friends and/or family, taking opioids to “get high” or mixing opioids with alcohol or other drugs like fentanyl. Opioid addiction signs and symptoms are listed as having three or more of the following: a need for increased amounts because of tolerance. Withdrawal is evident when uncomfortable symptoms occur with absence of opioids. The use of opioids is in greater quantities or for longer times; the person's efforts to cut down on use has failed. Considerable time and effort is used in attaining the opioids or recovering from their effects while important social, recreational and employment activities are reduced or given up, and if the substance use is continued, even if other problems are made worse.

Researchers suggest that genetic susceptibilities and biological traits may play a role in opioid misuse and addiction. Also, environment is also suggested to play a role (for example, social use). In addition, the opioids and misuse behaviors themselves may increase or change the reward circuits in the brain and augment addiction.

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Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.