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Opiate Addiction Overdose, Symptoms & Treatment

What is Opiate Addiction?

Opiate Addiction is a declared epidemic in the United States. In 2017 HHS declared a public health emergency regarding this addiction. According to, in 2019 around 1.6 million people in the US. had an opioid use disorder. 10.1 million people misused prescription opioids in the same year, and there were 48,006 deaths attributed to overdosing on synthetic opioids other than methadone during the second half of 2019 to the first half of 2020. [1]

As stated by the U.S. National Library of Medicine, in the piece ‘Opioid addiction’, Opiate Addiction is a chronic disease that can cause major health, social, and economic problems. Opioids are a class of drugs that act in the nervous system to produce feelings of pleasure and pain relief.

Some opioids are legally prescribed by healthcare providers to manage severe and chronic pain. Commonly prescribed opioids include oxycodone, fentanyl, buprenorphine, methadone, oxymorphone, hydrocodone, codeine, and morphine. Some other opioids, such as heroin, are illegal drugs of abuse.

Classic signs of Opiate addiction are characterized by a powerful, compulsive urge to use opioid drugs, even when they are no longer required medically. Opioids have a high potential for causing addiction in some people, even when the medications are prescribed appropriately and taken as directed. Many prescription opioids are misused or diverted to others. Individuals who become addicted may prioritize getting and using these drugs over other activities in their lives, often negatively impacting their professional and personal relationships. It is unknown why some people are more likely to become addicted than others. [2]

Opioids not only include prescription medications, they are a class of drugs that also include the illegal drug heroin and synthetic opioids such as fentanyl. 

Opiate Addiction
According to, in 2019 around 10.1 million people misused prescription opioids

Facts about the Opiate Addiction crisis

  • Roughly 21 to 29 percent of patients prescribed opioids for chronic pain misuse them
  • Between 8 and 12 percent of people using an opioid for chronic pain develop an opioid use disorder
  • An estimated 4 to 6 percent who misuse prescription opioids transition to heroin
  • About 80 percent of people who use heroin first misused prescription opioids
  • Among 38 states with prescription opioid overdose death data, 17 states saw a decline between 2017-2018; none experienced a significant increase.
  • Likelihood of developing an opioid use disorder depends on many factors, including length of time a person is prescribed to take opioids for acute pain, and length of time that people continue taking opioids (whether as prescribed, or misused). [3] 

Types Of Opiates

According to the pieceOpiate Addiction And Abuse’, published by, there are a variety of medical reasons why opiates are prescribed. There are two main classifications for this type of drug: antagonists and agonists.

  • Antagonists: such as Naltrexone and Naloxone, are considered to be less addictive than agonists, though the potential for abuse still exists. They are often used to help with the detoxification process, which often takes place as the first part of addiction treatment.
  • Agonists: mimic the effects of naturally-occurring endorphins in the body and produce an Opiate effect by interacting with specific receptor sites in the brain. Agonists include drugs like Morphine and Fentanyl, which are most commonly used in medical settings and have the strongest effects. Many substances in this category have a very high potential for abuse and addiction. Other examples of agonists include Hydrocodone, Oxycodone, Heroin, and Buprenorphine.

These are the most common Opiate agonists:

  • Codeine: Manufactured to relieve mild to moderate pain and coughing, Codeine is less potent than other Opioid Painkillers. It is easily obtained with a prescription and is present in some over-the-counter medicines. Commonly abused among young adults, Codeine is often combined with sugary drinks to create a mixture referred to as “Purple Drank” or “Sizzurp.”
  • Darvocet/Darvon: Though now banned by the FDA, Darvocet and Darvon are Propoxyphene-based Painkillers that were responsible for thousands of hospitalizations and deaths during their prime. While prescriptions for these drugs are no longer written, a black market still exists for the substances.
  • Demerol: A Narcotic used to treat moderate to severe pain, Demerol is less frequently prescribed in modern times because of its high potential for addiction. Demerol is the brand name for Meperidine, which has euphoric effects similar to Morphine.
  • Dilaudid: Sometimes referred to as “Hospital Grade Heroin,” Dilaudid is a powerful type of Painkiller. Available in extended-release tablets, Dilaudid abuse can quickly lead to breathing problems or even death.
  • Fentanyl: A Synthetic Painkiller that is up to 100 times as potent as Morphine, Fentanyl is only prescribed in cases of severe pain. When used in conjunction with other Painkillers such as Heroin, Fentanyl can quickly lead to overdose and other dangerous side effects.
  • Hydrocodone: A main ingredient in many powerful Painkillers, Hydrocodone can be found in drugs such as Vicodin. It is typically combined with Acetaminophen or Ibuprofen, but the FDA has also approved pure Hydrocodone medications.
  • Methadone: An Opioid used for moderate to severe pain, Methadone is also used as a way to curb cravings for people who are addicted to other substances, including Heroin. Despite its use in helping to treat other addictions, Methadone is still an addictive substance in its own right.
  • Morphine: Morphine has been touted as a godsend for people suffering from severe chronic pain. It is also one of the most addictive substances known and responsible for a large amount of unintentional drug-related deaths nationwide.
  • Oxycodone: Oxycodone is sold under brand names including OxyContin and Percocet. It is a widely prescribed Painkiller and has a high potential for abuse. [4]

Symptoms of Opiate Addiction

Opiates produce euphoric and tranquil effects when taken in amounts that are larger than prescribed. The pleasant, carefree feelings a person experiences when taking these drugs are often what leads to destructive patterns of abuse.

Opiate addiction symptoms are often characterized by compulsive drug-seeking behavior. For example, in an attempt to obtain more of the drug, a person may visit multiple doctors in order to get new prescriptions, otherwise known as “doctor shopping.”

The pathological urges to use these drugs can also drive people to borrow, buy, or steal the drugs from friends and family. As an act of desperation, some individuals may resort to seeking out Heroin, an illegal Opioid that is commonly purchased on the streets. Despite the well-known dangers of Heroin, it is often easier and cheaper to obtain than Opioid pills. [4]

Opiate Overdose

A devastating yet all-too-common consequence of Opioid Painkiller abuse is an overdose. An overdose is commonly caused by taking too much of a substance at any given time or by combining multiple substances, especially other Central Nervous System (CNS) Depressants such as Benzodiazepines and alcohol. Drug overdoses are the leading cause of accidental death in the United States, with 38 percent of all overdose deaths attributed to Painkillers.

People can overdose on Painkillers alone, but the risk is much greater for those who consume other types of substances at the same time. Common examples of polydrug abuse include mixing drugs with alcohol or another type of prescription drug, such as Benzodiazepines. [4]

Opiate Addiction
An overdose is commonly caused by taking too much of a substance at any given time or by combining multiple substances, especially other Central Nervous System (CNS) Depressants such as Benzodiazepines and alcohol.

  • Unconsciousness
  • Confusion
  • Constricted pupils
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Shallow or restricted breathing
  • Cool or clammy skin
  • Frequent vomiting
  • Extreme sleepiness or inability to wake up
  • Intermittent loss of consciousness

For many people, surviving an overdose was the defining moment that encouraged them to seek treatment. However, some people are hesitant to enter rehab shortly after experiencing an overdose. In fact, individuals will often wake up from an overdose and immediately use again.

It’s common to feel ashamed about your struggle with substance use and fear judgment from others during treatment. In reality, the people you will encounter in rehab are there to support you for seeking help rather than scrutinize you for succumbing to drug abuse.

Our therapists and staff at We Level Up Treatment Center will work hard to ensure that your treatment experience is 100 percent confidential and judgment-free. This is because we believe in your ability to overcome the disease of addiction. We want to do everything we can to instill the confidence and motivation you will need throughout your recovery journey.

Opiate Addiction Treatment

There are many treatment options to choose from, but research suggests the most effective form of treatment for Opiate addiction is inpatient detox followed by inpatient rehab. Inpatient rehab centers have specialized programs for individuals suffering from this type of substance use disorder. These programs help patients dig deep within themselves to uncover the root cause of their drug use. Knowing what caused patients to use drugs or alcohol in the first place will help prevent future triggers while in recovery. [4]

Opiate Addiction
Research suggests the most effective form of treatment for Opiate addiction is inpatient detox followed by inpatient rehab.

Opiate Addiction Rehab California, We Level Up Center California

Opiate Addiction is a chronic disease that can cause major health, social, and economic problems that should not be taken lightly. We Level Up Treatment Center can provide you, or someone you love, the tools to recover from Opiate Addiction with professional and safe treatment. Feel free to call us to speak with one of our counselors. We can inform you about this condition by giving you relevant information. Opiate addiction treatment centers have specialists to know what you are going through. Please know, and contact We Level Up California Center, that each call is private and confidential.


[1] ‘What is the U.S. Opioid Epidemic?’ –

[2] ‘Opioid addiction’ – U.S. National Library of Medicine (

[3] ‘Opioid Overdose Crisis’ – National Institute on Drug Abuse (