Opiates, both prescription painkillers and also illegal street drugs like heroin and Pink, have such a high potential for abuse that they have created a public health crisis in America. As doctors write millions of opioid prescriptions each year, the problem only continues to grow.

Since opioid abuse and addiction has become a topic that’s front and center in the U.S. and even around the world, there has been more attention given to the devastating effects that can occur with these drugs. Opioids are drugs that have the potential to not only diminish your health and lead to overdose and death, but they can also change your personality.

Families and relationships can be destroyed because of how opiates change your personality, and in some cases, the damage is long-term, even after someone stops using drugs.

In many cases, opioid addiction is considered a family disease because of the wide-reaching impact it has on everyone.

Why Does Opioid Use Change Your Personality?

Opioids impact the opioid receptors of the brain. These are areas that control pleasure and reward. When you use opioids, it floods your brain with dopamine, and ultimately these parts of your brain become rewired. You start to become unable to experience pleasure as you did before opioids without the use of drugs. It takes time for this personality change to go away even after you stop doing opioids.

Changes In Behavior

One of the most prominent ways of how opiates change your personality happens when you’re actually using them.

There are often noticeable changes in behavior that occur when someone is abusing opioids. First, the person may start to become so focused on using the drugs and obtaining them that their relationships start to crumble. The abuse of opioids can also lead people to start lying or being elusive because they want to keep their use hidden.

For many family members and friends of people who have a problem with opioids, the lying and sneakiness can be some of the first red flags that a problem exists. Of course, these tendencies aren’t exclusive only to exploring how opiates change your personality. These can be related to drug abuse and alcoholism of any kind.

In some cases, people who are abusing opiates will resort to criminal activity, including stealing as a way to obtain the drug. Since prescription painkillers are common, a person who is dependent on opioids may steal or accept opiate medications from the people around them, including elderly relatives.

Opiates profoundly change your personality not just because of the alterations they make to your brain, but because they become such a central focus in your life. The drugs are what everything else in your life can start to revolve around. Using opioids may take priority over not just relationships, but also school or work commitments.

Other Ways Opiates Change Your Personality

Along with common behaviors that occur with drug addiction, there are other ways how opioids change your personality. Additional ways of how opiates change your personality can include:

  • People who take opiates may start to exhibit poor decision-making and judgment.
  • Decreased inhibitions and poor judgment can lead to risky behaviors such as driving while taking opioids or having unprotected sex, as examples.
  • People who are using drugs often start to engage in behaviors that the people around them feel they would have never ordinarily done.

Frequently, people who are using opiates will start to have problems with sleep which can include nodding off at inappropriate times, sleeping too much, or having strange sleep patterns. They may also start to experience aggression, anxiety or depression.

These personality changes can continue during withdrawal when someone tries to stop using opioids and can even become more profound when coming off opiates.

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Editor – Camille Renzoni
Cami Renzoni is a creative writer and editor for The Recovery Village. As an advocate for behavioral health, Cami is certified in mental health first aid and encourages people who face substance use disorders to ask for the help they deserve. Read more
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Medically Reviewed By – Dr. Jessica Pyhtila, PharmD
Dr. Jessica Pyhtila is a Clinical Pharmacy Specialist based in Baltimore, Maryland with practice sites in inpatient palliative care and outpatient primary care at the Department of Veteran Affairs. Read more
Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.