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Young Adults and Opioid Abuse

Opioids are a broad category of drugs that relieve pain. Naturally derived opioids, like heroin and opium, are derived from the poppy plant. Today, most of the opioids available by prescription, such as codeine, hydrocodone (Vicodin), methadone (Dolophine) and oxycodone (Percocet, OxyContin), are synthetic. They’re among the most misused substances in America, and young adults are more susceptible to opioid abuse than any other age group.

Effects and Risks of Prescription Painkillers

Opioid medications work by causing the brain to release large amounts of its feel-good chemicals serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine. These chemicals make users feel euphoric and relieve pain temporarily, but once the medication wears off, they are depleted, and the user may feel worse than they did before.

It’s easy to build a tolerance to opioids. This means it’s likely that young adults who use pain pills recreationally will begin to want more in order to feel the same effects. Over time, opioid users experience stronger and stronger urges, so it’s important to use them only for the prescribed time and in the prescribed amount, and have a conversation with your doctor about your medication’s addiction risks before deciding if it’s right for you.

Over time, opioid use can lead to mental health problems like depression, insomnia, panic attacks, anxiety and fatigue. They can also cause brain damage, digestive issues and breathing problems.

teen opioid abuse

Opioid Abuse, Dependence and Addiction Among Young Adults

Young adults may begin taking opioids to self-medicate anxiety or enhance the effects of other drugs. Often, opioid addiction begins by taking pain medications that are prescribed. Users can easily build up tolerance to opioids – this effect is multiplied when they’re taken in excess of what was prescribed. Someone who’s dependent on opioids might “doctor shop” – visit different doctors to obtain more prescriptions, buy others’ prescriptions, or turn to street drugs like heroin, fentanyl and counterfeit opioids once their prescription runs out. It should also be noted that even short-term opioid use can lead to addiction.

Signs of Pain Medication Abuse

Young people who are misusing opioids may show a number of symptoms. Immediate effects of opioids include:

  • Constricted pupils
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Impulsiveness
  • Sleepiness

You might also notice a difference in their behavioral patterns, like isolating themselves from others, losing interest in activities they normally enjoy or needing to visit the doctor frequently.

Opioids are highly addictive substances with dramatically serious consequences. If you or someone you love is struggling with opioid addiction, it’s important to get professional help as soon as possible. The experts at Sandstone Care can offer compassionate advice, point you toward helpful resources and help you find the detox and addiction treatment options that work best for you. Call us today at 888-850-1890 to learn more.

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