At the Process Recovery Center, we are passionate about numerous matters relating to addiction treatment, but providing education and supporting families fall at the very top of our list.
Education and family support go hand-in-hand. In order to help a loved one who may be struggling with opioid dependence, you must be aware of the signs and symptoms of opioid addiction, the treatment resources in your area, and, most importantly, why your own wellness is an absolute, unquestionable priority.
If you’re only just making a beginning, this may seem like an overwhelming amount of research – which is exactly why we aim to provide a one-stop library of information about substance use disorders, particularly opioid addiction.
Whether you are actively using opioids – or you love someone who is engaged in active opioid use – the first tremulous steps toward recovery include recognizing the signs and symptoms of opioid addiction and busting through the denial.
What Are Opioids, Anyway?
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), opioids “are a class of drugs that include the illegal drug heroin, synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, and pain relievers available legally by prescription, such as oxycodone (OxyContin®), hydrocodone (Vicodin®), codeine, morphine, and many others”. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) goes on to say that “[while] many people benefit from using these medications to manage pain, prescription drugs are frequently diverted for improper use. As people use opioids repeatedly, their tolerance increases and they may not be able to maintain the source for the drugs. This can cause them to turn to the black market for these drugs and even switch from prescription drugs to cheaper and more risky substitutes like heroin”.
Sadly, SAMHSA also reports that “according to the CDC, 44 people die every day in the United States from overdose of prescription painkillers”. SAMHSA’s information was last updated in 2016. These numbers may be higher today.
Common Signs and Symptoms of Opioid Addiction
No two people are exactly alike; you may find that your loved one seems to fit all the criteria for opioid addiction, but he or she may only exhibit some of the signs. The longer your loved one has been using opioids, the more red flags will typically be in place.
The Mayo Clinic, “a nonprofit organization committed to clinical practice, education, and research”, encourages families to look for “problems at school or work, physical health issues, neglected appearance, changes in behavior, and money issues”.
The signs and symptoms of opioid addiction may manifest as:
- low motivation
- decreased performance
- weight fluctuation
- poor hygiene
- sudden unemployment
- unpaid bills
The Mayo Clinic further advises that opioid users may present with a “reduced sense of pain”, as well as “drowsiness, sedation, slurred speech, problems with attention and memory, constricted pupils, problems with coordination, depression, confusion, constipation, runny nose, nose sores, and needle marks”.
Other specific signs and symptoms of opioid addiction may include:
Frequent trips to the ER, walk-in-care, or the doctor for “pain management”
- “Doctor shopping”, i.e. visiting multiple doctors to maintain a steady supply of opioids
- Risky behavior, such as impaired driving, needle sharing, or unprotected sex
- Legal trouble
- Frequent insistence that opioid medication has been “lost”
- Hiding spaces containing opioid medication and/or street drugs
- Disappearances that last for hours or days at a time
- Agitation or mood fluctuations
- Paranoia, as demonstrated by distrust, suspiciousness, or defensiveness
- Breathing changes or loss of consciousness
Houston, We Have a Problem…What Next?
If evaluating the signs and symptoms of opioid addiction elicits recognition, your loved one may benefit from addiction treatment. While it will certainly feel urgent to encourage your loved one to pursue help, don’t forget to seek support for yourself. When you feel supported and balanced, you are better able to assist your loved one. You will be able to approach your interactions from a place of compassion and calm, rather than panic, desperation, or anger. It’s also important to be armed with knowledge about the disease of addiction and how to find safe treatment. When you make time to nurture self-care and opioid addiction awareness, you maintain the health of the family unit and increase the likelihood you will achieve a positive outcome.
Do you suspect your loved one has a problem with opioid addiction? Please call (888) 649-1149 or contact us here. We would love to facilitate treatment and provide resources for family support.
Autumn Khavari is the Process Recovery Center’s in-house writer. She received an education in Substance Abuse Counseling from Beal College in Bangor, Maine.
Drug addiction (substance use disorder) – Symptoms and causes. (2017). Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/drug-addiction/symptoms-causes/syc-20365112
Opioids. (2018). Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/opioids
Opioids | SAMHSA – Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2016). Retrieved from https://www.samhsa.gov/atod/opioids