Symptoms and Signs of Opioid Drug Abuse to Look Out for in Adolescents

Drug abuse or addiction inhibits an individual’s ability to control the use or consumption of illicit drugs or high-dose prescription drugs. Due to peer pressure and the environment, school children are more susceptible to opioid overuse or other types of drug abuse. It impacts the ability of the student to perform at school, behave properly, and focus on educational development.

Hence, this article will discuss the signs, symptoms, and impact of drug abuse. Read on to understand opioid overdose prevention techniques.

What is an Opioid?

Opioids are a family of drug compounds that are produced from opium poppy plants. The therapeutic dose of this drug is manufactured to relieve severe surgical pain. It is also used to relax the body of the patient in case of heavy stress. This is the reason why the overdose of prescription opioids is common.

Prescription opioids and illicit opioids such as heroin attach to the receptors in the brain to release endorphins. The release of a large amount of endorphins helps relieve pain and stress, thus, producing a euphoric effect. However, this euphoric impact is short-term, which encourages regular use to sustain a lasting outcome.

Below we have explained the types of opioids that may be misused by students or college goers:

  • Prescription opioids which are prescribed to a patient to relieve excessive pain after an injury, surgery, or accident. Approximately 29% of individuals misuse prescription opioids.
  • Heroin, which is produced from morphine. This is an illicit drug that is available in the form of a whitish powder which is consumed through snorting, sniffing, or injecting.
  • Fentanyl is a counterpart of morphine-produced heroin and it is stronger than heroin. Therapeutically, fentanyl is not prescribed, it is only injected or usually consumed in the presence of medical practitioners. However, when consumed illicitly with heroin, the combination severely harms the body.

Signs and Symptoms of Opioid Overdose

When under the influence of opioids, students and young adults may exhibit various signs and symptoms of intoxication and addiction. Below we have explained some of these symptoms and signs.

  • Poor concentration levels and state of confusion.
  • Watery or drowsy eyes.
  • Slurred or garbled speech.
  • Slow and poor gait.
  • Flu-like physical symptoms.
  • Vomiting and nausea.
  • Mood swings and stress.
  • Irritation and annoyance.
  • Lack of motivation and concentration.
  • Depression or addiction to the feeling of euphoria.
  • Panic bursts or anxiety attacks.
  • Withdrawal from studies, friends, and family.
  • Spending more money than usual.
  • Involving in risky behavior and activities due to the burst of emotions.

How to Identify Opioid Abuse?

Since drug abuse can impact the health and education of youngsters, preventing drug abuse is imperative. For which, it is necessary to first identify the primary symptoms of opioid abuse. Here are some of the methods to identify opioid abuse:

  • Low level of concentration in studies which leads to skipping homework and assignments, frequent absence from the classroom, a drop in academic performance, and overall disinterest in academic tasks.
  • Lack of proper appearance and spiraling anxiety. The student would seem confused all the time and their appearance would decline. This means that the lack of grooming would lead to a poor physical presentation.
  • Changed behavior, which leads to bursts of aggressive, impulsive responses, high-pitched voice, or passive responses.
  • Decline in personal relationships, which may include a lack of communication with friends and family members.
  • Monetary problems as these youngsters would often need to take a loan from friends and family to satisfy their opioids or drug needs.

Opioid Prevention

Since prescription opioids are often given to patients for relieving pain, getting addicted to them is easy. This makes prevention techniques and methods very important. Below we have explained some opioid overdose prevention methods. Through careful and mindful usage, the risk of opioid overdose can be minimized and even prevented.


Consult a medical practitioner and educate the students about opioid overuse. Explain how the drug impacts brain receptors and the overall health of individuals. This would enable the youngster to think of the consequences before taking prescription medicine without the recommendation of a doctor.

Provide Directions

Encourage students to follow the directions given by the medical practitioner strictly when an opioid is prescribed. Taking an extra dose is not acceptable, as even one extra dose may lead to a desire for more.

Here, parents have an important role to play. Hence, we need to educate parents to keep a keen check on the opioid prescription schedule of their kids.

Improve Understanding

Help students analyze how opioid helps their body and what the side-effects of it are. Make youngsters understand the difference between therapeutic usage and overuse. It is also necessary to deliver the knowledge of side-effects; how opioid harms the functioning of the body.


Educate students to never consume the medicine without the prescription of a doctor. It is harmful not only in the case of opioids but also every other type of therapeutic drug.

Further, encourage parents to keep prescription opioids away from the reach of teenagers and students.


The regular consumption of prescription or illicit opioids may alter the functioning of our brain. The brain can adapt to the schedule, which means in the absence of the drug, several psychological and physiological changes will occur. These changes trigger addictive habits or withdrawal.

Hence, opioid overdose prevention is imperative. The correct approach is to closely monitor the behavior of students to detect drug abuse early. The school authorities should additionally educate students on the right usage of prescription medicines. Both these activities combined can reduce the risk of drug abuse and improve educational success in teenagers.

For drug prevention & awareness, REAL Prevention has initiated a program called keepin it REAL (kiR) which is a scientifically proven, effective substance use prevention and social and emotional competency enhancing program designed to focus on the competencies linked to preventing substance use and abuse.

Read More
opioid overdose prevention programs

How Can Opioid Overdose Prevention Programs Benefit Young Adults?

In the United States, more than 6 out of 10 overdose deaths is caused by an opioid.

The United States is facing a major social crisis, as evidenced by the rising number of opioid overdose deaths. Reports state that in 2016, approximately 11.5 million American citizens dabbled with prescription opioids and more than 42,000 died due to an opioid overdose.

More than 115 deaths are caused due to opioid overdose every day in the US and it costs approximately $78.5 billion per annum to fund opioid overdose treatment, healthcare, and more.

Opioid Abuse Affecting Young Adults

Opioid overuse is not only limited to the adult population as it has taken a heavy toll on children and young adults as well. A significant portion of the responsibility to keep the children away from such bad practices falls on the parents as well as on the school administration.

Most students at-risk of opioid use and overdose are living with a guardian or a parent, who is also struggling with opioid addiction. Orphaned children living with their grandparents or in foster care homes are also at risk of taking up this habit to cope with and survive through the trauma and pain that they undergo. Even children with responsible parents at home may get hooked on opioids due to peer pressure at school. It falls on the school administration to look out for such kids and support them in order to facilitate opioid overdose prevention.

Why is it Critical to Avoid Addiction to Opioid and Other Drugs During Adolescence?

When a person uses opioids or any other addictive substance from an early stage of their life, the chances of getting addicted to the substance increases manifold. Drugs change the way our brain functions and this addiction can lead to serious health problems and can even cause death in the future. Therefore, it is necessary to prevent children and adolescents from using opioids from an early age, as this can reduce the risks of addiction in the future.

The risk of using and getting addicted to drugs rises exponentially during times of transition. For children, this is the time when they hit puberty and their body undergoes a sea change both physically and mentally. In addition to this, if there is a divorce in the family or the family moves from one place to another, and a change in schools, then he/she may be more likely to develop opioid addiction to cope with the domestic, social, and academic changes.

When children hit their adolescence, they are faced with new challenges, both social and academic. It is during this time in their life that they are first exposed to substances like alcohol, marijuana, and cigarettes. As we all know, risk-taking is looked upon as something cool among adolescents, which pushes them to try out new and different things which might include experimenting with opioids and drugs.

The part of our brain involved in decision-making and control judgment develops fully by the time a person is in their early or mid-20s, limiting a teenager’s ability to accurately assess the risks associated with opioid use. This also makes young adults more vulnerable to peer pressure, leading them to opioid abuse and possible overdose.

Getting addicted to opioids during adolescence can affect brain development and functioning by disrupting critical areas like behavior control, motivation, judgment, learning, and memory. Therefore, it has been seen that teenagers who get addicted to drugs and alcohol often experience social and family issues, physical and mental health problems, poor academic performance, and other such issues.

Can Research-Based Opioid Overdose Prevention Programs Help Young Adults?

Yes, it is possible to help at-risk young adults and keep them from developing opioid addiction with the help of research-based opioid overdose prevention programs. These programs can be implemented in the school and can also be carried out by community coalitions to have the maximum effect. Scientific studies have proven that research-based programs have been quite effective in decreasing the chances of early use of opioids, drugs, alcohol, and other substances.

Things that Must be Included in a High-Quality Opioid Overdose Prevention Program

There is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to designing an effective opioid overdose prevention program. Therefore, schools and communities must consider a number of factors to come up with a program that suits their needs and would address the issues that the children are facing.

Here are some features that you must look out for in opioid overdose prevention programs:

1. The Protective Factor:

On the basis of a number of studies, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has found that there are certain protective factors that can help young adults avoid substance abuse and other self-destructive behavioral patterns that can put them at risk. Among these, one of the most important is to feel connected with the school, making the students believe that their peers and teachers actually care about them as people and would understand the situations they are in.

2. Standard Health Education Classes:

It is essential to provide quality health education complying with the National Health Education Standards to the students so that they can get a better understanding of their health and the factors which affect it. Apart from informing the students about the effects drugs have on our body, they must also be made aware of the laws pertaining to opioid abuse. Core life skills like goal setting, decision making, bystander intervention, and self-management must also be a part of a quality health education class.

3. Quality Teaching Resources:

For the best results, use program materials created by reputable sources like SAMHSA and their partners. One such reputable source is Real Prevention, which provides different opioid overdose prevention programs for middle and high school students.

4. Collaborate With Professional Training Services:

Teachers must be given proper training to achieve their desired goals. Organizations like Real Prevention offer training services for teachers so that they can carry out the keepin’ it REAL (kiR) program with the utmost confidence and integrity. Training is needed to implement these opioid overdose prevention programs effectively.

In Conclusion:

It makes sense to start opioid overdose prevention programs at an early age so as to nip the problem in the bud. The young adults will have the knowledge that they can use to grow and learn without succumbing to the temptation of drugs. Currently, many school districts have already undertaken such steps to fight opioid overdose and educators believe that more school districts should follow suit to completely eradicate this problem.

Read More