Opioid Addiction | Facts, Risk Factors, Signs, & Treatment

From proven prescription pain medications like morphine and oxycodone, to illicit substances like heroin and fentanyl, all opioid-class drugs have the potential to be habit-forming and addictive, especially for those with known risk factors.

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Substance use disorder (SUD) is a serious but treatable behavioral disorder that can have profound effects on a person’s physical and mental state, leading to continuing and increasing substance abuse over time.

While many substances can be addictive, opioids are some of the most notoriously habit-forming, desired, and deadly drugs of abuse in circulation.

What Are Opioids?

Opioids are a class of both synthetic and natural drugs chemically related to natural pain relievers (opiates) which have been extracted from the sap of the opium poppy for many centuries.

How Opioids Work

These drugs act by binding to opioid receptors in the central nervous system, providing pain relief at low doses but triggering profound euphoria, central nervous system depression, and other severe effects at higher doses.

Controlled Substance Status

Opioids are generally categorized as either Schedule I or Schedule II controlled substances with the highest potential risk for diversion, abuse, physical dependence, and addiction.

Opioid Drugs

Some of the most well known opioid drugs include:

Opioid Addiction

Opioid addiction, or opioid use disorder (OUD), is defined as a chronic, relapsing mental and behavioral health disorder in which someone compulsively seeks out opioid drugs and continues to misuse them despite negative effects.

Unfortunately, for many people opioid addiction begins after they receive prescription drugs like oxycodone or oxymorphone from a healthcare provider to treat severe pain or for chronic pain management.

Risk Of Opioid Overdose

Opioid use disorder is strongly linked to preventable opioid overdose deaths, which claimed the lives of over 100,000 Americans in the calendar year of 2021 alone.

The ongoing opioid crisis causes a wide variety of other long-term physical, mental, economic, and social harms in those impacted.

Is Opioid Addiction Treatable?

While an opioid use disorder is serious and dangerous, it is also a treatable condition and a wide variety of evidence-based interventions have been developed in recent years to help those who struggle with opioid use disorder build a lasting recovery.

This also includes several medication-assisted treatment options for those in recovery to consider.

Risk Factors For Opioid Addiction

While anyone can experience addiction under the wrong circumstances, there are a variety of risk factors and protective factors that can increase or decrease the likelihood that a person will experience some form of substance use disorder in their life.

These risk factors include:


  • though there is no single addiction gene, some people are more susceptible to addictive behavior because of their genetic makeup
  • this susceptibility can be suggested by a family history of substance abuse or drug addiction


  • normalization of substance abuse in one’s community
  • high availability of opioid drugs in one’s environment
  • low perception of risk among peers


  • low parental involvement during childhood
  • growing up with financial insecurity
  • poor performance in school
  • permissive attitudes towards substance use by parents or caregivers
  • family conflict, abuse, or neglect
  • early use of substances including alcohol, especially in one’s childhood or adolescent years

Route Of Administration

  • smoking, injecting, or taking illicit or prescribed opioids in other unusual ways

Signs Of Opioid Addiction

Every individual is different, and the experience of opioid addiction can look very different from situation to situation.

But there are some common signs that someone is struggling with opioid abuse and drug addiction that you can watch for, including:

  • lapses in hygiene and self-care
  • unusual weight loss
  • slurred speech
  • drowsiness
  • changing sleep habits
  • frequent flu-like symptoms
  • decreased interest in sex
  • secretive behavior and isolation from family members and friends
  • sudden financial problems
  • drug seeking behavior including stealing, doctor shopping, faking injuries, or trying to buy drugs online or on the street
  • the emergence of opioid withdrawal symptoms (cravings, mental health changes, disturbed sleep, sweating, tremors, and others) if a person goes without opioids for a period of time

Opioid Addiction Treatment

Treatment plans for opioid use disorder should be formed on an individual basis, to best meet the needs of each individual participant.

However, common stages of the recovery process often include:

  • medical detoxification to navigate discontinuation and withdrawal
  • short- or long-term inpatient rehabilitation in a residential treatment center
  • local outpatient treatment on a part-time or full-time basis
  • dual diagnosis care for co-occurring mental health disorders
  • medication-assisted treatment using naltrexone, buprenorphine, or methadone
  • aftercare, which may include case management, peer support, sober living housing, and more

To find out if our opioid addiction treatment program, which includes medical detox, will work for you or a loved one, please contact us today.

  1. Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) — Opioid Risks and How to Reduce Them https://www.cdc.gov/opioids/patients/reduce-risks.htmlhttps://www.cdc.gov/opioids/patients/reduce-risks.html
  2. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) — Prescription Opioids DrugFacts https://nida.nih.gov/publications/drugfacts/prescription-opioids
  3. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) — Risk and Protective Factors https://www.samhsa.gov/sites/default/files/20190718-samhsa-risk-protective-factors.pdf
  4. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) — Opioid Facts and Statistics https://www.hhs.gov/opioids/statistics/index.html

Written by Bedrock Recovery Center Editorial Team

Published on: August 23, 2023

© 2024 Bedrock Recovery Center | All Rights Reserved

* This page does not provide medical advice.

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