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Teen Opioid Addiction and Abuse

Opioids are a type of drug that encompasses both legal medications, as well as illegal drugs. Legal opioids (i.e. oxycodone, hydrocodone, morphine…etc.) are relied upon, and prescribed by medical professionals to primarily help treat patients experiencing severe pain.

Illegal opioids, such as heroin, are abused as a means to achieve an intense high. Legal opioids can be abused by a teenager if the teen uses more than was prescribed, uses opioids that were not prescribed at all, mixes the opioids with other substances/medications, and/or ingests the opioid in a way other than prescribed (i.e. crushes and snorts). Not every teen that uses opioids will become addicted to them. Regardless of if an opioid is used legally (taking the prescribed dose at the recommended intervals), young people are still at risk for addiction, as opioids have highly addictive properties. Due to the fact that regulated opioids are commonly used in the medical field, their accessibility has grown exponentially over the years, which some believe has resulted in the rise of teenage opioid abuse and addiction.

Warning Signs

Each individual is different and will exhibit differing warning sign in regards to opioid abuse. Some signs can include any combination of the following:

  • Euphoria
  • Confusion
  • Mood changes
  • Constricted pupils
  • Behavioral problems
  • Shifts in social life
  • Depression
  • Excessive drowsiness
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Lying/ impulsive behaviors
  • Nausea
  • Slowed breathing

If continued abuse of opioids occurs, a teen is at risk of overdose. Overdosing on opioids can cause severe long-term consequences, and in some cases lead to death.

Side Effects

There are many short and long-term effects that may be exhibited in a teen struggling with opioid abuse and/or addiction. Some of them can include any combination of the following:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Blurred vision
  • Liver damage
  • Changes in one’s breathing
  • Constipation
  • Hallucinations
  • Lack of concentration
  • Impaired judgment
  • Weight loss
  • Anxiety
  • Euphoria
  • Feeling lightheaded
  • Emotional instability
  • Flushed skin
  • Depression
  • Insomnia

Vein damage can also be a long-term side effect of intravenous opioid abuse. The severity and longevity of the side effects will be unique to each teen. The length of time a teen abuses opioid drugs, the type of opioids abused, the duration of one’s abuse, the potency of the drug, and one’s health history will all weigh into the side effects that may be experienced.


An adolescent must go through detox as the initial component of substance abuse and/or addiction treatment. Detox is the process that rids one’s body of an abused substance. It is essential for a young person struggling with opioid abuse to cleanse their body of the opioids. Any person who habitually abuses opioids has taught their body to function with the presence of opioids, and when they are removed from one’s system, their body will react accordingly. Opioid detox will result in the teenager experiencing withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms can range from mild to severe, depending on a number of factors. It is best to undergo detox for opioid abuse under the direct supervision of a trained medical professional. This can help to ensure the safety of the individual, as well as help the teen manage the discomforts of detox.

Post the successful completion of detox, attending a substance abuse and/or addiction treatment program is recommended. Pacific Teen Treatment offers a tailored treatment plan to each of its residents, to help ensure continued success throughout one’s recovery. Adolescence is a challenging time in a young person’s life. It is essential to maintain an open line of communication with your teen. This will provide you with a window into their world, in addition to allow you to take note of any relevant shifts that may be cause for alarm. Any young person struggling with opioid abuse or addiction can recover with the proper support, and go on to live a drug-free, enjoyable life.

 For Information and Support

Seeking help is never easy, but you are not alone! If you or someone you know is in need of mental health treatment, we strongly encourage you to reach out for help as quickly as possible. It is not uncommon for many mental health difficulties to impact an individual for the long term. The earlier you seek support, the sooner you and your loved ones can return to happy, healthy and fulfilling lives.

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