For people struggling with pain after surgery, injury or as part of a plan for chronic pain management, the short-term use of opiates can provide needed relief. But for people who use the drugs for longer periods of time or in larger amounts that prescribed, opiates quickly become a drug of addiction.

Opiates are naturally-occurring substances derived from the opium poppy and are part of a larger drug category called opioids.1 Opioids include both naturally-occurring substances and synthetic forms of the drugs. Opiates work in the brain to change the way the body perceives pain and produce feelings of euphoria in the user.

Opiates are found in some prescription pain medications and are considered Schedule II narcotics by the U.S Department of Justice Drug Enforcement Administration.2 Opiates are highly habit forming and using the drugs in ways other than prescribed by a physician can lead to addiction.3 Morphine, codeine, and thebaine are all medications classified as opiates. Understanding more about each drug can help you or a loved one recognize problems like weight gain or loss or developing dependence.

Opiate Basics

Opium poppiesMorphine is the most common natural alkaloid in the opium poppy. It’s frequently prescribed to patients that have undergone major surgery and are in need of significant pain reliefCodeine, synthesized from morphine, is frequently combined with Tylenol when prescribed for pain. The effects of codeine are less intense than those of morphine. Thebaine is poisonous, so it is not used in medicine. However, it can be converted into opioids. Some examples of these are hydrocodone and oxycodone. Opioids are often prescribed for the treatment of pain.

Both natural and synthetic opiates cause dependence, and many people abuse these drugs for their ability to induce euphoria.

Opiate use can have major effects on the body, including ruining a user’s eating habits and appetite. Common side effects of opiate abuse include constipation, nausea, and vomiting. These symptoms can lead to a lack of nutrients and an imbalance of electrolytes. The side effects of nausea and vomiting often decrease the user’s appetite, making it difficult to maintain a healthy diet. Another side effect of opiate abuse is fatigue. This can lower the user’s metabolic rate, causes a change in eating habits due to lack of appetite.

How Opiate Abuse Affects Weight

People that abuse opiates may experience either weight gain or loss as a result of their drug use. Opiate users that experience side effects, such as nausea and vomiting, may experience weight loss. However, users that do not experience these side effects may experience weight gain.
The high the drug causes may encourage them to eat more food to feel even better. Opiate users may even gain weight because substance abuse often leads to inactivity.
People that become addicted to opiates may abuse drugs so often that they do little else. As a result, they may not participate in many activities that require physical exercise. But for most people struggling with opiate addiction, the opposite is true.

Because an addicted person needs more of the drug to feel normal, whatever money he or she has is spent on getting more of the drug rather than on nutritious food.

Finding Help for Opiate Addiction

Extreme weight loss is only one of the many dangerous side effects from opiate abuse. And getting help is the only way to prevent accidental overdose and death. If you or someone you love is struggling with an addiction to opiates, we are here for you.

Call our toll-free helpline, 706-914-2327, and speak to an admissions coordinator about available treatment options. Our staff is available 24 hours a day to take your call and to connect you to the help you need to achieve recovery. You are not alone. Call us now.


1Opiates/Opioids.” The National Alliance of Advocates for Buprenorphine Treatmen. Accessed May 29, 2018.

2Controlled Substance Schedules.” U.S. Department of Justice, Drug Enforcement Administration, Mar. 2018.

3How Opioid Addiction Occurs.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 16 Feb. 2018.

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