How Can You Tell if Someone is Using Opioids? The Body Shows!

Need Help? How can you tell if someone is using or abusing opioids?

Have you ever wondered how you can tell whether someone is using opioid medication, or abusing illicit drugs?  How does the body  change and show the drug use?

Wouldn’t this information be valuable so you could address possible drug abuse in, and offer treatment options to, someone you care about in the early stages of  drug abuse…before the person reaches the point of addiction?

How Does Medicine/Drugs Effect the Brain and the Body?

Medicine and illicit drugs change the chemical processes within the brain and the body by altering normal neural transmission patterns and communication systems. These changes affect how neurons transmit, receive, process, and interpret information in the areas of the brain, especially the emotional ‘pain’ or ‘pleasure’ centers, and also the central nervous system.  By activating the dopamine levels and pleasure centers of the brain, or by suppressing pain levels and the negative emotional response to pain, certain people are highly motivated and likely to repeat the drug use and may become dependent.

What’s the Difference Between Opiates and Opioids?

Opiates are drugs derived from natural opium.  Opioid classification referred to synthetic drugs, but now has been expanded to include natural opiates, as well as synthetic, and semi-synthetic medications.

What are the Effects of Opioids on the Brain and the Body:

Opioid medications depress central nervous system activity and reduce the negative emotional experience of pain by attaching to opioid receptors located in the brain, spinal cord, gastrointestinal tract, and other organs in the body.  Opioids and opiates are highly addictive, can produce physical dependence, and may result in serious withdrawal symptoms such as vomiting, muscle and bone pain, and flu-like symptoms.

Opioids include:

  • Codeine (only available in generic form)
  • Diphenoxylate (Lomotil®)
  • Fentanyl (Duragesic®, Actiq, Fentora)
  • Hydrocodone (Vicodin®, Lorcet, Lortab, Norco)
  • Hydromorphone (Dilaudid®, Exalgo)
  • Lorcet, Lortab, Norco, Vicodin (hydrocodone and acetaminophen)
  • Meperidine (Demerol®)
  • Methadon (Dolophine, Methadose)
  • Morphine (Avinza, Kadian, MS Contin, Ora-Morph SR)
  • Oxycodone (OxyContin®, OxyfastPercocetRoxicodone)
  • Oxymorphone (Opana®)
  • Percocet (oxycodone and acetaminophen)
  • Propoxyphene (Darvon®)

Central nervous system depressants include:

  • Pentobarbital sodium (Nembutal®)
  • Diazepam (Valium®)
  • Alprazolam (Xanax®)

The illicit drug Heroin falls within the opioid classification because heroin is synthesized from morphine.

In Addition to Relieving Pain and Suppressing Cough Impulses, Opioids have these BODY Symptoms and Negative Side-Effects:

  • Nausea and vomiting: The use of opioids stimulates opioid receptors located in the gastrointestinal tract and in the brain to trigger nausea and vomiting.
  • Suppresses respiration, gastric, pancreatic and billiary secretions, and urinary voiding reflex.
  • Increased drowsiness or sedation, or mental confusion
  • Allergic reaction, change in body temperature, skin rash (e.g., red, itchy, raised bumps), itching, flushing, cooling, clamminess, or sweating in the chest, neck, and face caused by the release of histamine during opioid use.
  • Miosis: small, pin-point, constricted pupils.
  • Constipation: Opioids cause sluggish movements of the intestinal contents in the digestive tract, which leads to severe constipation, especially with long-term chronic use.  Other side-effects include urinary retention, colonic spasms, ureteral contractions, and anal sphincter tone.
  • Respiratory depression: The breathing may be suppressed as a result of a low blood oxygen level. As blood oxygen falls and blood carbon dioxide rises, there is an increase in drive for respiration. Using high doses or extremely potent opioids may increase the risk for hyopventilation.
  • Psychological effects: Opioids may also lead to hallucinations, delirium, dizziness and confusion. There may be some amount of memory loss and headache.
  • Changes in heart rate: Heart rate may become either rapid or very slow.  Some users may experience severe drop in blood pressure on standing up from a sitting or lying position.
  • Myoclonus: This describes muscle rigidity and abnormal movement of the limbs and muscles. This can occur with the use of high doses.
  • Long term opioid use or abuse may cause drug dependence, leading to severe withdrawal symptoms if the drugs are discontinued abruptly.

Voluntary Choice and Drug Use May Lead to Drug Abuse and Dependence characterized by intense uncontrollable drug craving, compulsive drug seeking, and drug use despite devastating consequences to the individual, family, and community.  Drug exposure changes optimal brain functioning. Addiction is a brain disease that affects neurotransmitters and complex brain circuits and processing, including those involved in reward and motivation, learning and memory, and inhibitory control over behavior.

If you suspect drug abuse or addiction in yourself or a loved one, contact medical and drug addiction treatment for proper assessment and treatment options.

Accurate Body Language Founder & CEO Janette Ghedotte is a:

  • Certified Advanced Alcohol and Drug Counselor
  • Internationally Certified Advanced Alcohol & Drug Counselor

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