How to Tell if a Loved One Is Abusing Opioids
Learn How to Recognize Opioid Abuse in a Loved One
Opioid abuse is a difficult problem to confront in a loved one, but it can be devastating if ignored. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that 2.5 million Americans suffer from opioid use disorder; overdose deaths rose from 21,088 in 2010 to 46,802 in 2018.
Helping someone overcome opioid abuse begins with recognizing its signs, ranging from physical indicators like sudden weight loss and fatigue to personality changes and criminal behavior. Keep reading to learn how you can spot opioid abuse in a friend or loved one before addiction takes hold.
Risk Factors for Opioid Addiction
Several drugs are classified as opioids, including prescription pain medicines and illegal drugs such as heroin. Opioid use often begins with a real need for pain relief, but these powerful drugs can be overused, and addiction can result without close monitoring by the user’s physician.
Although anyone who takes opioids can become addicted, the risk of abuse tends to be higher among those who:
- Are in their teens or early 20s
- Are unemployed or have financial problems
- Have a personal or family history of substance abuse
- Have a history of work and family problems
- Have had legal issues, including DUIs
- Are often around other high-risk people or environments
- Have struggled with severe depression or anxiety
Opioid Abuse Signs and Symptoms
Recognizing indicators of opioid abuse can be achieved if you know what to look for. Common signs of opioid addiction include both physical and behavioral clues:
- Drowsiness and changes in sleep habits
- Weight loss
- Frequent flu-like symptoms
- Decreased libido
- Lack of hygiene
- Changes in exercise habits
- Isolation from family or friends
- Stealing from family, friends, or businesses
- Mood changes, including excessive swings from elation to hostility
- Regularly taking an opioid in a way not intended by the doctor who prescribed it
- Borrowing medication from other people or “losing” pills so that more prescriptions must be written
- Seeking the same prescription from multiple doctors in order to have a “backup” supply
Opioid Addiction Treatment
The most effective opioid rehab combines both medical and behavioral therapy. Medications such as methadone, buprenorphine, or naltrexone paired with support programs can help people recover.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse advises, “Medications should be combined with behavioral counseling for a ‘whole patient’ approach, known as Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT).” The agency reports that MAT decreases opioid use, opioid-related overdose deaths, criminal activity, and infectious disease transmission and “increases social functioning and retention in treatment.”
Suboxone is another effective treatment for opioid addiction. Suboxone depresses the addict’s craving for opioids and has been found to increase long-term sobriety by as much as 60%.
Trust Your Instincts
You may be your own best indicator that someone you love is abusing opioids. Do you worry that they’re taking too much, even though they insist they’re following the doctor’s prescription? Do you find yourself avoiding them to avoid thinking about your suspicions? Do you see them obtaining drugs illegally or through suspicious means?
It’s tempting to ignore the problem and take the addict’s word that everything is fine, but you may have to change your own behavior to help a loved one change theirs. Recovery from opioid addiction is much more successful when the addict’s friends and family know they are aware of the problem and refuse to let them continue the potentially lethal behavior. Trust your instincts and help your loved one find the treatment they probably know they need. Contact Muse Treatment online or call 800-426-1818 for information on how we can help.