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Opioids work by reducing one’s perception of pain. When opioid medications are ingested, they attach to opioid receptors, which are in one’s brain, spinal cord, gastrointestinal tract, and other organs in one’s body. It is not uncommon for an individual to experience a sense of euphoria when opioids are present in one’s system, as opioids also affect the reward center in one’s brain. When an individual uses illicit opioids, uses prescribed opioids in greater doses than recommended, mixes opioids with other drugs and/ or alcohol, or ingests opioids by way of a method other than intended (e.g., crushes pills and snorts them) he or she raises the risk of overdose and developing other possible medical complications. Further, excessive abuse of opioids can lead to changes in how one’s brain functions.


The following statistics, provided by a variety of sources, clearly denote the prevalence of opioid abuse in America:

  • Approximately 4 to 6 percent of individuals who misuse prescription opioids transition to heroin.
  • Between 8 and 12 percent of people using an opioid for chronic go on to abuse opioids. 
  • Emergency department visits for opioid overdoses rose 30 percent in all parts of the United States from July 2016 through September 2017.
  • In 2019, an average of 38 people died each day from overdoses involving prescription opioids, totaling more than 14,000 deaths.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), about 0.5 million deaths are attributed to drug use, worldwide, and more than 70 percent of these deaths are related to opioids.

Signs and Symptoms

Every individual is different and each person struggling with opioid abuse has the propensity to exhibit a unique combination of signs and symptoms. Commonly reported examples that may be indicative of opioid abuse could include, but are not limited to, the following, provided by Johns Hopkins Medicine

  • Uncontrollable opiate cravings
  • Drowsiness
  • Changes in sleep habits
  • Weight loss
  • Frequent flu-like symptoms
  • Decreased libido
  • Lack of hygiene
  • Slurred speech
  • Loss of coordination
  • Shaking
  • Excessive sweating
  • Drastic mood swings

The severity of symptoms will depend on several contributing factors (e.g., an individual’s personal health history, the length of time the individual abused opioids, the frequency of use, the dosage abused, if the individual mixed opioids with any other substances, etc.). If left untreated, habitual opioid abused can lead to harmful short and long-term effects. 

Further Information and Support

If you are concerned for yourself or a loved one regarding substance abuse and/ or addiction, we recommend reaching out for help as soon as possible. Addiction can be an incredibly damaging disease. Navigating the challenges that arise from substance abuse, and/ or addiction can not only be all consuming but are often impossible to effectively handle without proper support. If left untreated, substance abuse and/ or addiction can result in long lasting and potentially life-threatening consequences.

While seeking help is never easy, it is beneficial to bear in mind that you do not have to be on this journey alone. There is an entire network of professionals that are readily available to help and support you or your loved one throughout every step of the recovery process.

 Pathways Recovery is a fully supportive treatment program for those struggling with substance abuse and/ or addiction. We believe in our clients and their ability to turn their lives around. We know that each person who chooses to join our community has the strength it takes to overcome their challenges with substance abuse and/ or addiction. Please do not hesitate to reach out for guidance. We are happy to answer any questions and provide any information you may be looking for regarding substance abuse and/ or addiction. Feel free to contact us by phone at 626-515-6424 or 1-866-682-0901. We look forward to connecting and having the opportunity to discuss how we might best be able to support you.