Opioids include both prescription and illegal narcotics. Some opioids may be prescribed to treat severe or chronic pain, while others, like heroin and desomorphine, are sold illegally on the streets for recreational use. Also known as opiates, these drugs are among the most commonly abused substances in the nation, so much so that they’ve contributed to a drug epidemic that’s persisted since the late 1990s in the United States. Between then and now, millions of people have been affected by opioid abuse in some way. If you or a loved one is battling an opioid use disorder, our Massachusetts inpatient drug rehab offers an opioid treatment program that can help.  

Stages and Signs of Opioid Use  

When opiates first enter the body, they attach themselves to opioid receptors in areas of the body like the spinal cord, digestive tract, and brain. As they bind to these receptors, opioids can block pain signaling from the body to the brain, alleviating the individual’s symptoms. However, opioids also activate the reward center of the brain, otherwise known as the nucleus accumbens.  

Once activated, this region of the brain stimulates the release of a neurotransmitter called dopamine, which is linked to elevated mood, the sensation of well-being, and pleasurable symptoms. An opioid high is therefore marked by a spike in dopamine levels in the brain, and this sensation reinforces drug use and encourages further drug-taking behavior.  

In other words, the euphoria linked to an opioid high is what makes these drugs so addictive. Although an opioid use disorder may not be immediately obvious, eventually, the individual may begin to exhibit certain physical and psychological signs of a problem.   

Some common warning signs of opiate addiction include:   

  • Disorientation  
  • Taking medication not prescribed to you  
  • Sudden changes in alertness  
  • Strange sleep patterns  
  • Raspy or hoarse voice  
  • Flu-like symptoms from periods of withdrawal  
  • Constant itching  
  • Sudden weight loss  
  • Frequent mood changes  
  • Neglecting responsibilities  
  • “Pinned” pupils (constricted pupils)  
  • Mood swings  

You may also notice some other indicators of opioid abuse in the individual, such as: 

  • Abandonment of responsibilities at home, school, or work  
  • Withdrawing from loved ones  
  • Secretive behavior  
  • Lying about symptoms or ailments to obtain more opioid prescriptions 
  • Asking for, borrowing, or stealing prescriptions from others 
  • Going from one doctor to another for more prescriptions 
  • Numerous empty prescription bottles in their home or cabinets 

Unfortunately, many individuals who start abusing prescription opioids eventually turn to street opioids, like heroin, to keep up their habit. Prescriptions eventually become difficult to obtain, to the point where the user may prefer to buy a cheaper and more accessible alternative on the street, despite the additional risks.  

Heroin is a particularly popular street drug and a dangerous opioid. While prescription medications obtained from pharmacies are never laced, substances purchased on the street are often laced with additional chemicals or substances to enhance their effects, make them more addictive, or simply make them weightier so dealers can make more money with fewer products. Fentanyl is an especially common cutting agent or additive that’s added to drugs like heroin, increasing the user’s risk of overdose. 

There are also various stages of opiate addiction, such as:  

  • Tolerance: Repeated use can change your brain chemistry, and your brain adjusts to the dose you take and gets used to functioning on opioids. Tolerance is therefore marked by a need to take higher doses of a drug to experience the same high or the same effects. 
  • Dependence: If opioid use becomes a regular part of life, then your body will eventually adjust to it and rely on the drug to function properly. Withdrawal can set in at this stage, with symptoms like pain, cramps, diarrhea, chills, and vomiting occurring whenever drug use is reduced or cut off suddenly. 
  • Addiction: The loss of judgment and impulse control are two of the signs doctors look for when diagnosing someone with addiction or a use disorder. When a person has developed an opioid use disorder, they will have lost control over drug use, may have attempted to quit before without success, and may be aware of the damage their habit is causing but are unable to stop.  

Opioid abuse doesn’t always start intentionally. Oftentimes, a person who’s taking prescription opioids for pain relief may grow tolerant to a certain dose, at which point they may no longer experience the safe relief. In an attempt to alleviate their pain, they may increase their dose a bit.  

If this continues, an addiction eventually occurs. Many people who start abusing prescription opioids often turn to more accessible and cheap drugs like heroin to continue their addictions.   

If you or a loved one are experiencing any of these signs, then it may be time to start searching for opioid treatment programs that offer you the support you need. The stages of opiate addiction may continue to progress if the person fails to receive care at a professional opioid treatment center  

Our Massachusetts Opiate Rehab Center  

Our certified opioid treatment program in Massachusetts offers the medically supervised detox, round-the-clock care, therapy, and aftercare services necessary for long-term sobriety. However, before starting treatment, patients undergo a clinical assessment to determine which course of programming is best for them. Usually, patients with opioid use disorders begin their treatment with opioid detoxification, during which they receive 24-hour care and medication-assisted treatment (as needed) to recover from withdrawals.   

After opioid detox, patients at our opioid rehab then move onto our residential level of care, during which they live at our facility while participating in individual and group therapy sessions with our counselors. Our rehab in Massachusetts even offers a family program for spouses, parents, and siblings who also wish to receive therapy to heal from the impact of their loved one’s substance abuse.   

Getting sober on your own can be challenging and dangerous, and detox and withdrawal symptoms can sometimes even be deadly. Don’t take the risk. If you recognize any signs of opioid abuse in yourself or a loved one, contact Clearbrook Treatment Centers today to learn more about our opioid addiction treatment program and how we can help. 


Related Reading: 

What Are Pill Mills?  

Must-Watch Documentaries About Addiction 

What Are “Heroin Eyes?”