Signs and Symptoms of Prescription and Non-Prescription Opiate Abuse

Prescription opiates, such as Demerol or Codeine-containing syrups, and non-prescription opiates, including Heroin and unrefined Opium resin are considered “downers” which calm the user, as opposed to “uppers” which excite and energise the user. The most common forms of opiates are Morphine, Codeine, Thebaine and Papaverine. Prescription opiates include but are not limited to Panadeine Forte, Tramadol, Hydrocodone, Acetaminophen, Ultram, Percocet, Morphine, Codeine, Endone, Proladone, Durogesic, Sublimaze and Oxycontin. Opiates are highly addictive and the mid nineteenth century to about the mid twentieth century found plenty of opium dens throughout France, Canada, London, New York and San Francisco and of course China.

As with other “downers,” opiate use produces a calming and soothing effect on the body.[1] Physical symptoms of opiate abuse are marked if the abuse is not in the early stages. Listlessness and irritability are the most obvious signs, but the evidence really stacks up when it comes to just how addicted the individual really is.

Endorphins in the body are natural “opiates” which give off a calm, relaxing, safe feeling and kick in after pain is incurred upon the system. Imagine that you have an itch. Scratching the itch produces small, short-term pain, which then signals an endorphin release so that you do not feel the pain anymore. Endorphins flow steadily throughout the body on a regular basis and increase in areas where pain, injury or suffering has occurred. Now imagine scratching your itch without the release of endorphins. Yes, the itch would stop but a lot sooner than you might think. The pain from the scratch is not covered up by endorphin release and so this pain is particularly strong and obvious, with no soothing effect following. Opiates such as Heroin and Morphine are essentially synthetic endorphins and, after being abused on even a semi-regular basis, your body will stop producing natural endorphins. The physical, daily need for endorphin regulation will make an opiate addiction particularly strong.[2]

Because of the prevalent need to replace natural endorphins, opiate addicts will also exhibit outward characteristics such as lying, stealing, secretiveness, withdrawal from society, alternate periods of apathy and excited states of energy, depression, uncoordinated movement and, of course, high irritability. Remember, they do not produce their normal daily endorphin levels which soothe and eliminate irritation. This is important to remember both in private interaction and in workplace environments. Although opiate abuse is calming to the individual which means that they are less likely to cause violence than with other drugs, this scenario can be completely reversed if they find themselves without their daily drug and withdrawal symptoms can mean that the person is extremely distracted amongst many other signs..

Most drug tests will detect opiate use/abuse and confirmatory testing should be able to identify the type of opiate used and whether it is consistent with any declared medications. For more information on drug testing or to purchase drug tests, call CMM Technology on +618-9204-2500 or drop them a line at

1. “Arch Gen Psychiatry — Abstract: Diagnosis and Symptoms of Depression in Opiate Addicts: Course and Relationship to Treatment Outcome, February 1982, Rounsaville et al. 39 (2): 151.” Archives of General Psychiatry, a monthly peer-reviewed medical journal published by AMA. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Nov. 2010.
2. “Opiate Addiction — WIKLER 105 (1): 74 — Am J Psychiatry.” The American Journal of Psychiatry. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Nov. 2010.

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