Are you or a loved one concerned about possible opioid abuse but are unsure of how to identify if there is a problem? If you or your spouse or child may have or be developing an opiate addiction, it is most helpful to catch it early.
This, however, can be a challenging process, given the person with the problem will go out of their way to cover it up at all costs and will likely be in denial themselves.
Fortunately, there are early warning signs to opioid abuse and some tips for overall prevention from experts in the addiction recovery field. Read on to find out how you might be able to help yourself or a loved one get off the road to addiction and headed toward recovery before things get too out of control.
Opioids are powerful, prescription medications used for pain relief.
According to doctors that specialize in pain management, because of the strength of opioids, they should only be used very short-term, approximately 1-7 days at the most.
The idea is to give temporary relief and potentially teach the body to stop sending pain signals, or at least to lower the intensity of the messages, after a trauma to the body such as a major injury or surgery.
They were not designed for longer-term use with chronic conditions, although some doctors will prescribe them for chronic conditions such as cancer, autoimmune disease, and the like.
There are also some prescription cough medicines that contain opioids. It is extremely important to take these medications strictly as directed by your physician if you do choose to use them.
The 1990’s saw a significant increase in opioid use as prescribers were assured by pharmaceutical companies that the drugs were extremely useful for pain management of all kinds, not just cancer, for which they were initially intended, and that the drugs had a low risk of addiction. Unfortunately, this misinformation did a great disservice to patients and society as a whole to the tune of $78.5 billion per year including the costs of addiction treatment, criminal justice, lost productivity, and healthcare, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
According to the National Vital Statistics System, more than 115 people die daily of opioid drug complications and overdoses.
It is incredible that even though doctors and related officials are aware now of the highly addictive nature of opioids, many caregivers continue to recommend them for moderate to severe and chronic pain conditions.
Prescriptions are being issued at an alarming rate of over 58 opioid prescriptions written per 100 Americans in 2017 according to the CDC, and the average number of days prescribed also increased to 18 days.
This overuse is not good news for those calling for a solution to the epidemic, but what you can do as a patient or the loved one of a patient, is become informed.
Your doctor or pharmacist should discuss all medication with you before recommending or dispensing it if it is new to you. If they don’t offer information, it is essential to ask.
You should always be well informed about what you are putting in your body. Also, read the medication package inserts carefully to understand more about the medication, possible side effects, correct dose and usage, and the conditions it is used to treat.
During that conversation, it is essential that you ask if the drug is an opioid and, if this is a concern to you, discuss other alternatives to taking them.
Common opioids include Tramadol, Codeine, Opium, Sufentanil, Fentanyl, Paregoric, Heroin, Oxycodone, Hydrocodone, Oxymorphone, Methadone, and Morphine.
While there is no way to know for sure if your loved one has an opioid addiction problem, there are signs and symptoms that can be reliable indicators, especially when two or more are present at any given time.
We’ve compiled a list of the major signs and symptoms. We hope that this list might help you identify a problem or tell you if you should be concerned.
#1: Behavioral Changes, Especially Isolation – These can often be challenging to identify, especially if your loved one is a teenager since this time of their lives can bring about changes in behavior as a rule. But if your previously outgoing, happy-go-lucky loved one is now acting strange, different, or secretive, and there are other signs and symptoms from this list present, they may have an opioid addiction issue.
#2: Constant Obsessing About Medications – Does your loved one know a lot about all kinds of medications? Do they talk about it incessantly? Do they obsess about picking up prescriptions, managing prescriptions, or running out of medicines? Do they get irritable if they can’t get their prescriptions filled immediately? Do they appear to be using more and more orders and running out of them more often? This, along with other signs and symptoms on this list, can indicate a potential problem.
#3: Doctor Hopping – Does your loved one frequently switch doctors? Do they have a ton of different doctors they’re seeing? Do they see doctors that are unusually far from home or work? Do they frequently express dissatisfaction with doctors as an excuse to keep switching? This is a tactic often used by opioid addicts to secure more drugs and hide their addiction.
#4: They Appear To Be Out of It Frequently – Does your loved one frequently seem high/buzzed, out of it, or wanting to sleep a lot? Do they always have a reasonable explanation on hand, such as staying up too late the night before, too much on their mind, too much pain, blame others (neighbor kept me up late), or deny or deflect that they are high (blame you, say you imagine things, etc.)? This can indicate mental issues such as depression, anxiety, and the like, but combined with other signs and symptoms herein, may be another signal that there is an opioid abuse issue.
#5: Hiding Pills – Have you discovered pills or pill bottles in odd places as if they were hidden or stashed away? If you’re finding pills in a shoe box, a winter coat pocket during the summer, in the car glove compartment, or other a-typical places to have medicines, your loved one may have an opioid addiction.
#6: New Health Issues – Obviously someone who already has health issues and chronic pain are more likely to develop new health issues, so this one can be more challenging to identify. Typical health changes to look for in addiction include rapid weight loss or weight gain, sallow looking skin, especially on the face and dark circles under the eyes. It’s important to understand that these symptoms could be indicative of other health issues unrelated to addiction but can be a sign of addiction when combined with other signs on this list.
#7: Poor Hygiene Habits – If you’re loved one used to take reasonably good care of themselves at a basic level, such as showering daily, brushing their teeth twice a day, eating fairly healthy, but you’ve noticed they’re now not doing these things, it may be a sign of addiction, especially when other signs and symptoms from this list are present.
Addicts tend to let themselves go when knee deep in addiction and not even realize, or care, that they haven’t taken a shower in four days. Again, this can be a sign of mental illness such as severe depression as well if this is the only symptom present.
#8: Their Personal Space Is A Disaster Area – Again, this can be a tough one to call just on its own and needs to be considered in the context of the other signs and symptoms. This symptom could be a sign of low self-esteem or depression as well as addiction. Also, if you’re loved one is a teenager, extreme messiness can simply be a phase or rebellion stage. What we’re really looking at here is similar to the poor hygiene habits – do they leave dishes in the sink for day or weeks? Trash is piling up and smelling? Laundry goes undone, clothes and personal belongings scattered and thrown everywhere? This could be another sign that your loved one has an addiction issue.
#9: Legal Problems – If your loved one has been arrested for a DUI while driving under the influence, arrested for public intoxication or other aggressive and unacceptable and harmful behavior while under the influence, it can be a strong indicator of an opioid abuse or other addiction problem.
#10: Financial Problems – Is your loved one worried continuously or obsessing about money – not having enough, being behind on bills and rent, frequently borrowing money from you or others, etc.? Do they always seem to be out of money with no reasonable explanation of where the money has gone? Addictions are expensive, even prescription drug addictions! An addict will go to any length to get their high and will turn to buy illegal prescription meds and other similar drugs if they can’t get them through a doctor or pharmacy anymore. While financial issues can be indicators of problems other than addiction, when combined with other signs and symptoms on this list can be another good indicator of an issue.
The most notable indicator though, not on the list above, is that their opioid use is bothering YOU.
If you find yourself worried, obsessing, checking for pills, bottles, and prescriptions, trying to manage what, when, and how much medication your loved one is taking, or you’ve been asking them to stop, there’s a good chance they have an addiction.
Once opioid use has gotten to the point where loved ones are concerned, upset, or trying to control the situation, it’s usually way out of hand.
If you believe your loved one has an opioid addiction, it is vital for you to seek professional help both for the addict, (if you have any influence over them, for instance, a child), and for yourself.
In the beginning, you may find it challenging to convince the addict to seek help for their addiction as they may still be in denial, a big part of the disease.
This can be upsetting, frustrating, and cause great anxiety to loved ones helplessly watching while their loved one self-destructs. But there is something you can do to help.
Believe it or not, though, the best thing you can do is seek treatment and support for yourself in such cases.
Going to a treatment center to join a support group for friends and family members of addicts, a 12 step group such as Al-Anon or Nar-Anon, or even individual counseling can help you and help your loved one suffering from addiction.
Members of such groups and programs have reported that once they had a better understanding of addiction and their roles as enablers, they were able to change their behavior with the addict.
Sometimes not taking care of the addict or taking care of things they should be able to do for themselves, such as laundry, paying bills, dealing with their employer, etc., got them to a point where they realized on their own they needed help and became willing to seek it.
If you are the individual with the opioid addiction and you’ve read this article and wanted to get off opioids, there is help and hope.
Thousands upon thousands of patients who’ve been prescribed opioids and develop an addiction, as a result, have found lasting recovery through 12 step programs, group therapy, and reputable rehabilitation centers across the country and around the world.
Rehab and recovery programs have proven a success when the plans are strictly adhered to. You can have a healthy, prosperous, and serene life once again not overshadowed by the hardships brought on by active addiction.
You can recover successfully from addiction, there is help, there is hope, and recovery is just a phone call, email, or meeting away. You can do this!
If you are unsure and need help to identify an addiction or with creating your treatment and recovery, you can get in touch with the Hotline at our Recovery Center where trained and experienced professionals are available to assist you in every way.
The staff at Chateau Recovery is always available to help you with all of your questions regarding addiction recovery and treatment. Call anytime.
Please call our toll-free helpline which is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week and is staffed by experienced and caring professionals who can answer your questions and help you navigate through the process of evaluating and securing a treatment program.
If you or someone you love has questions concerning the rehabilitation process, call our free helpline Phone: +1 888-971-2986 for more information. Calls are always confidential, private, and secure.
Dr. Bader candidly talks about Opioid Addiction, such as: morphine, heroin, codeine, oxycodone, and hydrocodone. In this video you will learn why people become addicted and what warning signs to look for in yourself or others in order to get help before it goes too far.
Because we are frequently exposed to opportunities to experiment with, misuse and abuse so many different types of prescriptions drugs— from stimulants and pain relievers to anti-depressants and tranquilizers— it can be difficult to know what signs to watch for. Each medication has different effects and mixing these drugs with alcohol and other drugs is very dangerous and can lead to permanent organ damage and even death.
Know the signs that might signal prescription drug abuse.