Opiate Abuse

Use and abuse of heroin or prescription pain medicines such as oxycodone, codeine, hydrocodone, morphine, methadone, and fentanyl may lead to addiction or dependence. Once this occurs, you are at greater risk for any of these:

  • Craving for the drug and unable to stop using the drug even though you think you want to stop (psychological addiction)

  • Drug withdrawal symptoms if you stop taking the drug (physical dependence)

  • Loss of your job or your family

  • Arrest, conviction, and jail sentence for possession of an illegal substance or for driving under the influence of such a substance

  • Accidental injuries to yourself or others while you are under the influence of the drug in a car or at home

  • Death or serious injury from overdose

Health problems

The list of potential health problems is a long one. It can be different with different medicines. They can cause problems even if you have no history of medical problems. It is also affected by other medicines you may be taking, and chronic illnesses you may have. Besides the problems listed above, abuse also has other effects, some directly related to the drugs, others from or related to addiction or dependency.

  • Anxiety

  • Seizures

  • Constipation

  • Hepatitis (liver infection)

  • Liver failure

  • Blood pressure problems

  • Depression

  • Insomnia

  • Nausea, vomiting, and stomach problems

  • Drowsiness

  • Slurred speech

  • Trouble breathing

  • Dizziness

  • Skin infections

  • Muscle pain and spasms

  • Stroke

  • Heart attack

  • Kidney failure

  • HIV infection

  • Skin infections

  • Other sexually transmitted diseases

  • Severe and fatal infection of the heart valves

  • Coma and death

Home care

  • Admit you have a drug problem. Ask for help from your family and close friends.

  • Seek professional help. This could be individual psychotherapy, counseling, or a drug treatment program (outpatient or residential).

  • Join a self-help group for drug abuse.

  • Avoid friends who abuse drugs themselves or tempt you to continue your habit.

  • Eat a balanced diet and begin a regular exercise program.

Follow-up care

Follow up with your healthcare provider, or as advised. Contact one of the resources below for help:

  • National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, www.ncadd.org 800-475-HOPE

  • Narcotics Anonymous. Check your phone book for a local listing, call 818-773-9999, or visit www.na.org.

  • National Alcohol and Substance Abuse Information Center for referral to treatment programs

  • www.Addictioncareoptions.com 800-784-6776

Call 911

Call 911 if any of these occur: 

  • Seizure

  • Trouble breathing or slow, irregular breathing

  • Chest pain

  • Sudden weakness on one side of your body or sudden trouble speaking

  • Very drowsy or trouble awakening

  • Fainting or loss of consciousness

  • Rapid heart rate

  • Very slow heart rate

When to seek medical advice

Call your healthcare provider right away if any of these occur:

  • Symptoms of withdrawal. These include agitation, anxiety, trembling, sweats, diarrhea, unable to sleep.

  • Fever of 100.4ºF (38.0ºC) or higher, or as directed by your healthcare provider

  • Excessive drowsiness or inability to be awakened

  • Redness, swelling, or tenderness at an injection site

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