Addiction to opioids, both legal prescriptions and illicit drugs, has become a worldwide crisis. Unlike anything we have ever seen before, opioid addiction crosses all societal boundaries, affecting anyone who comes across its path.
Maybe you find yourself among the millions who are now struggling with this baffling disease. Or, possibly, you suspect that someone you love is spiraling into the cycle of addiction. If you are the latter, you may be asking yourself, “How can I know for certain, and how can I help?”
Firstly, knowing what red flags and warning signs to look for is of most importance. And second, if you are certain that your loved one has succumb to opiate addiction, it is imperative to know where to turn for help.
Today, we would like to discuss the many warning signs of opioid addiction so you are better able to help the person in your life who is struggling.
What Are Opioids?
Before we can discuss the warning signs of opioid addiction, you must first know what they are, and the many forms they come in. As news surrounding the drug crisis grows, there is much confusion about the difference between opioids and opiates. Opiates are narcotic drugs derived from the poppy plant, such as heroin and morphine. Opioids, on the other hand, are synthesized chemical compounds, such as the many medications prescribed for pain. While there are some distinct differences between the two, the terms opiate addiction and opioid addiction are frequently used interchangeably now. Furthermore, the term opioid is often used to describe the entire family of opioids, including natural, synthetic, and semi-synthetic drugs. Some examples include:
Red Flags Of Opioid Addiction
If you suspect that your loved one may be struggling with opioid addiction, you may have already noticed some changes in that person. Warning signs and red flags can come in the form of both behavioral changes and physical symptoms. Here’s what you need to keep an eye out for.
Sudden Financial Problems | If you notice that your loved one suddenly struggles to pay bills or asks to borrow money more frequently, this may be a sign of drug abuse. Furthermore, if they are still working regularly, yet they never seem to have money, you may want to keep an eye on this behavior.
Hanging Out With New Friends | Often times, someone who abuses drugs and/alcohol may begin to distance themselves from old friends, and find themselves hanging with a new crowd. This crowd is usually made up of people who are doing the same things that your loved one is doing. Keep an eye out for new friends that appear to be addicted to drugs and/or alcohol.
Mood Swings/ Erratic Behavior | Opioid addicts often have very high highs, and very low lows. They are typically brought on by the drugs the person is abusing, or lack thereof. When an addict is unable to “score,” you may find that they are more irritable and/or aggressive during these times. Or, when they are under the influence, they may suddenly be in a very good mood, or extremely subdued.
Doesn’t Take Of Responsibilities | If your loved one suddenly forgets to pay bills on time, doesn’t show up to grandma’s 80th birthday, or stops going to work, this may be a sign that something is wrong. This is especially so if that person has always taken care of their responsibilities in the past.
Isolation | While some addicts may seek out a new crowd of people to hang out with, others with completely shut themselves off to the outside world. This includes both families and friends. Keep an eye out for social isolation, as it is one of the major warning signs of addiction.
Lying and/or Stealing | Unfortunately, lying and stealing become a major issue for those struggling with addiction. Many times, as the disease progresses, it is very difficult for the individual to differentiate the true from the false, as they live in a state of delusion. You may begin to find that they lie about almost everything…even the smallest of things.
As for stealing, this also occurs as the disease progresses and other warning signs, such as financial problems and no longer taking care of responsibilities, pop up. You may begin to notice that you are missing $40 out of your wallet or expensive jewelry and household items have suddenly disappeared. It is natural to second guess yourself, wondering if you simply misplaced those items or spent that money. But, do not ignore what your gut is telling you!
Physical Warning Signs
Weight Loss | Weight loss is a common symptom of opioid addiction. If your loved one has suddenly dropped 10 pounds, and doesn’t seem to be exercising or dieting, this is something to be concerned about.
Constricted Pupils | Also known as “pinpoint” pupils, this is a telltale sign of opioid abuse. While many substances make the pupils look enlarged, opioids are one of the only that do the opposite. The constriction of pupils is a reaction that occurs in the parasympathetic nervous system, when the circular muscle contracts. Furthermore, when an individual is suffering withdrawal symptoms of opioid abuse, the pupils will then appear very dilated.
Drowsiness/”Nodding Off” | Another major sign of opioid addiction, if your loved one begins to “nod off” or appear extremely tired at inappropriate times, there may be cause for concern. Opioids affect specific areas in the brain and body that create a sense of sedation, causing one to feel extreme drowsiness. If they cannot keep their eyes open at the dinner table or while having a discussion, there may be something else going on besides fatigue.
Track Marks | Track marks are scars and bruising caused by intravenous drug use. If noticeable marks appear on your loved ones hands, arms, feet, and legs, this may be a sign of intravenous opioid drug use. Also, if they begin wearing long sleeve shirts and pants, especially in warmer weather, they may be trying to hide something.
Scratching | Intense itching is a common side effect caused by opioid drugs. While researchers are still trying to figure out the exact science as to why this occurs, they believe it has to do with how opioids activate specific receptors within the brain. Regardless, if you find your loved one constantly scratching themselves, coupled with the other symptoms we have discussed today, there may be cause for concern.
Withdrawal Symptoms Of Opioid Abuse
Withdrawal symptoms from opioid abuse can be extremely painful and uncomfortable for the individual. In extreme cases, it can also be life threatening. That is why it is imperative to seek out the help of both medical and addictions professionals immediately. Due to the severe symptoms associated with withdrawal, it is often difficult to stop cold turkey. Many times, without medical and clinical interventions in place to ease the process of detox, an individual will return to active opioid addiction. This is not because they do not want to stop, but because the physical and emotional pain of withdrawal is too great. If someone you love is currently experiencing opioid withdrawal symptoms, please seek the help necessary to aid in the process of rehabilitation.
Common withdrawal symptoms include:
- Nausea & Vomitting
- Anxiety and/or depression
- Increased heart rate
- Joint pain & body aches
- Cold sweats
- Dilated pupils
- Mood swings
Contact Clearbrook Today For Opioid Addiction Treatment
If the information we discussed today has struck a chord with you, it is likely that you or someone you love is currently suffering from opioid addiction. If that is the case, please know that help is available to both the addict and family.
For 45 years, Clearbrook Treatment Centers has been providing the highest quality of treatment services for both the chemically dependent person, and their affected loved ones. If you are in need of treatment, you have come to the right place!
Please contact our Admissions Specialists today and get on the road to recovery. You will see that there is hope beyond addiction, and it begins here!