Opioid addiction

Opioid addiction is a potentially serious condition that can develop after misusing prescription medications or illicit street drugs. If you have concerns that you or a loved one is struggling with opioid addiction, know that you are not alone.

With over 5.6 million people in the U.K. being written an opioid prescription in a single year, there is a great risk of opioid addiction. Whether these are prescribed to you or street obtained, we are always here to help, and there is no judgement or shame in seeking guidance.

Opioid addiction - opioids on table

What is opioid addiction?

Opioid addiction is a medical condition which causes a person to consume dangerous amounts of opioids, despite any negative consequences. This develops when the body begins to rely on opioids. Over time, opioid use can cause changes in your brain chemistry, so you need more of the drug to feel the same effects. Eventually, this leads to dependency and withdrawal when you try to stop using.

Opioid addiction is not just physical, however. Those addicted to this medication usually find that they are hiding a deeper issue of trauma that has never been addressed, so they are also psychologically dependent on the drugs. Opioids are commonly prescribed to treat severe and chronic pain.

How common is opioid addiction in the UK?

Illegal use of opioids includes taking opioids that were not prescribed for you or obtaining opioids from the streets, such as heroin, and this is common in the UK. Yet, even when medically prescribed, opioids have a high potential for causing addiction.

While it can be hard to get exact figures for illicit opioid use, over half of the adults in substance abuse treatment are there for opiate abuse.

Common types of opioid addiction

Codeine button

Codeine addiction

Codeine is a commonly prescribed painkiller that can lead to addiction when abused. Click the button below to learn more.

Codeine addiction →

Fentanyl button

Fentanyl addiction

Fentanyl is an extremely powerful opioid with a high risk of addiction. Often cut into other drugs, it can also lead to overdose.

Fentanyl addiction →

Methadone button

Methadone addiction

Methadone is often used to help treat opioid use disorder but can lead to addiction when abused.

Methadone addiction →

Morphine button

Morphine addiction

Morphine is commonly used in hospitals to treat pain. However, addiction can occur when taken too much.

Morphine addiction →

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Oxycodone addiction

Oxycodone is a semi-synthetic opioid painkiller that is highly addictive.

Oxycodone addiction →

The effects of an opioid addiction

Opioids depress the central nervous system, so prolonged use can cause serious damage to physical health. This includes:

  • Respiratory failure
  • Confusion
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Reduced heart rate
  • Slow deterioration of organs
  • Hormonal dysregulation
  • Risk of overdose
  • Changes in brain structure and chemicals

Dependency and addiction to opioids can also be recognised by the experience of withdrawal symptoms. This can include aches, cramps, nausea, and insomnia.

In fact, in 2021, nearly half of all fatal overdoses involved an opiate. However, with early intervention and treatment, the risk of an overdose decreases, and you are able to overcome your substance use disorder to live a happy and healthy future.

Signs and symptoms of opioid addiction

If any of the following symptoms present themselves, it is likely you have an opioid addiction.

  • Increasing the amount of opioids taken or extending the period of use
  • A strong desire or constant cravings to use opioids
  • Problems and difficulty fulfilling school, home, or work obligations
  • Spending a large amount of time obtaining, using, or recovering from opioid use
  • Unsuccessful attempts to reduce the amount taken
  • Neglecting activities due to opioid use
  • Using opioids in dangerous situations
  • Continued opioid abuse despite interpersonal or social problems
  • Continued use despite psychological or physical health problems that were caused by opioid use
  • Increased tolerance to opioids
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when reducing use or stopping completely

How to tell if a loved one has an opioid use disorder

Common signs to spot in your loved one include:

  • Mood changes, from elation to hostility
  • Taking prescribed opioids when not in need
  • Regularly taking opioids when they are not prescribed
  • Disrupted sleeping patterns
  • Getting the same prescription but from multiple doctors
  • Borrowing opioids from other people

Opioid addiction - loved one

Can you recover from an opioid addiction?

With the right support and dedication, anyone can achieve lasting sobriety. We make it our mission to help people overcome opioid addiction every day.

Our experienced team at Linwood House can help support you through every step of your recovery journey. If you believe you or a loved one is living with opioid addiction, contact us today to see how our treatment programmes can help you. Together, we can overcome opioid addiction.

Frequently asked questions

Are opiates and opioids the same thing?
While the two terms are similar, they refer to slightly different things. Opiates are derived directly from opium poppy plants and are considered to be more ‘natural’. Common opiates include substances like morphine and heroin. Opioids are synthetic, or at least partly synthetic, and include drugs like fentanyl and oxycodone.
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