The U.S. suffers some of the most dubious numbers in terms of substance abuse. In the past few years, experts have estimated that over 50,000 doses of opioids are taken every day for every one million Americans.

Palm Beach County is no exception, with hundreds of documented opioid overdose deaths for years. Recent surveillance from PBC also noted an alarming number of opioid-related medical reports, both fatal and non-fatal overdoses.

But it’s not without hope. Overcoming opioid addiction is possible with professional help. Through supervised health care and appropriate treatment plans, you can take back the life addiction disease has taken from you.

In this guide, we’re walking you through everything you should know about opioid addiction. We’ll start by explaining what opioids are, how opioid addiction works, and the available treatment options to begin your healing.


What Is an Opioid?

Opioids are a group of drugs designed to alleviate severe pain in patients. Some of the most common examples of opioids include heroin, fentanyl, oxycodone, codeine, hydromorphone, morphine, and hydrocodone, among many others.

An opioid works as a pain reliever by traveling through the blood vessels, into the brain, and attaching itself to the brain cells’ opioid receptors. The opioid numbs the body by blocking painful stimulations while boosting pleasurable feelings.

How Does Opioid Addiction Happen?

When used as prescribed, opioids are a safe drug with plenty of practical medicinal applications. Doctors mainly use them for patients with chronic health conditions or those who have undergone operations.

Unfortunately, what makes prescription opioids valuable is also the reason why they’re dangerous. Opioids are incredibly addictive because they affect powerful reward centers in the nervous system.

Opioids trigger your brain to release endorphins, a natural hormone your body produces to reduce feelings of pain and stress.

In short, they program your brain to “feel good.” By boosting pleasure and eliminating pain, opioids make you feel a potent sense of well-being that lasts briefly.

The euphoric high from taking these drugs can quickly turn into dependence. When the drug dose wears off, the individual finds themselves wanting more, starting the vicious cycle of opioid abuse.

Common Signs of Opioid Addiction

Opioid use disorders (OUD) can cause physical, behavioral, and psychological symptoms.

If you think you or any of your loved ones suffer from opioid use disorder, here are some of the most common signs to watch out for:

Drug Cravings

The first clear sign of opioid addiction is severe cravings for the drug.

At the onset, it can look as simple as taking more drugs than what the doctors prescribed. Later, they can start taking and using someone else’s prescription medicine for themselves.

Left alone, the person suffering from OUD won’t be able to stop using the drug, often exhibiting destructive and irrational behaviors regardless of consequences.

Physical Symptoms

Regular opioid use can change the way a person looks in subtle or drastic ways. Some of the physical manifestations of opioid misuse include:

  • Abnormal constriction of eye pupils
  • Obvious changes in appearance (i.e., weight loss)
  • Feelings of nausea
  • Dulling motor skills and muscle coordination
  • Frequent digestive issues, including diarrhea and vomiting

Psychological Symptoms

As opioids primarily affect the brain, you can also expect some cognitive and psychosocial changes in the individual suffering from SUD, such as:

  • Slowed or impaired thought process
  • Poor judgment and problem-solving skills
  • Detachment from reality
  • Irritability and emotional swings
  • Anxiety and paranoia
  • Worsening mental health, often depression

Behavioral Symptoms

A sign of a substance use disorder can be incredibly subtle. So, it may not always be easy to tell if someone is becoming addicted to opioids or not.

These simple changes in behavior may be indicative of opioid addiction:

  • Lying about the illness to receive medication
  • Poor or worsening performance in school or work
  • Sudden and frequent unexplained absences
  • Difficulty in concentrating on tasks
  • Deliberate isolation from friends and family members
  • Sudden outbursts that are often unprovoked

Withdrawal Symptoms

The side effects of opioids last even after the person stops using. When the person suffering from SUD suddenly stops or is cut off from using opioids, they may exhibit discomforting physical and mental symptoms.

Opioid withdrawal symptoms victims can include:

  • Insomnia
  • Aches and pains
  • Mood swings and irritability
  • Severe tiredness
  • Anxiety, depression, and paranoia
  • Nausea, sweating, and vomiting

Available Treatment For Opioid Addiction

The most effective treatment plans to recover from OUD involve a combination of detoxification, talk therapy, and medication.

Depending on the severity of the addiction, your healthcare provider can implement the following evidence-based treatment approaches.

Behavioral Therapy

Counseling, support groups, and behavioral therapy are crucial aspects of opioid treatment. They help you understand your situation and how the use of opioids impacted your life and those around you.

Your counselor or therapist can employ different methods of therapy, such as:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): A talk therapy that focuses on identifying and coping with unhealthy patterns of behavior and thinking. CBT is a well-established treatment for addiction, especially when combined with other programs.
  • Motivational Enhancement Therapy (MET): MET is an approach that focuses on removing doubts and uncertainties in your treatment process. It’s mainly for encouraging patients to do things that are conducive to their goals.
  • Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT): Dialectical behavior therapy revolves around teaching mindfulness to opioid victims. It aids patients in becoming more aware of the moment, recovering the senses dulled by drug use.

Medication-Assisted Treatment

The discomforting withdrawal symptoms are one of the culprits for cases of relapse among recovering patients.

To minimize this problematic issue, healthcare providers can use several medications to help you through the symptoms and push you further in your recovery.


Methadone is a drug that substitutes for the substance the person is addicted to. Unlike typical opioids, it doesn’t induce the “feel good” hormone and you’ll mostly feel normal after taking the methadone.

In appropriate doses, methadone can ease the withdrawal symptoms and cravings associated with drug detoxification.


Buprenorphine is a drug that works similarly to methadone. It hits the same receptors as opioids with reduced potency, making it an excellent treatment of opioid dependence.

Some formulations may use buprenorphine alongside other opioid-inhibiting drugs. Experts favor this medication because of its lower risk of overdose.


Naltrexone, on the other hand, inhibits your brain’s opiate receptors. However, unlike methadone or buprenorphine, naltrexone doesn’t alleviate cravings or withdrawal symptoms.

Essentially, it takes away your body’s capability of getting high, which can be effective in preventing relapse.


Healthcare professionals can use naloxone to reverse an opioid overdose. This drug works by hitting your brain’s receptors and blocking opioids from taking effect.

They typically inject or spray naloxone through the nose. It can help individuals who are experiencing slowed or stopped breathing due to the amount of opioids they take.

Final Thoughts: Seeking Professional Help

Opioid addiction is a massive issue that has plagued American communities for decades. It destroys the life of the person addicted to drugs, sows discord in families, and ravages anyone regardless of age.

Without proper resources and help, a person suffering from OUD can quickly spiral into severe addiction and endanger their health.

If you or any of your loved ones suffer from opioid use disorder in Boynton Beach, don’t hesitate to contact Recreate Life Counseling for a personalized treatment plan to get you back on track.

Start your path to healing and recovery now!


Published on: 2024-07-08
Updated on: 2024-07-08