When people use opioids as prescribed by a doctor, these drugs can relieve significant pain. But opioids can also cause addiction, which leads to many other health problems. People addicted to opioids cannot stop using the drugs on their own, and an opioid addiction treatment program can help. Still, sometimes it’s not easy to tell if a person you love needs addiction treatment. Here are some of the signs.
How Opioid Addiction Develops
Opioids, otherwise known as opiates, are a class of drugs designed to eliminate pain. Doctors may prescribe opioids when someone is recovering from a surgery or dental procedure, enduring a chronic illness, or healing from a significant injury.
Some frequently prescribed drugs and active ingredients with opioids include:
Some illegal drugs, like heroin, also contain opioids. Since opioids have such a powerful effect, they’re heavily regulated and intended for short-term use. Opioids attach to brain receptors that affect the brainstem and spinal cord, blocking pain signals and producing a calming effect. Over time, the brain may adjust to opioids and no longer be able to function normally without them.
Many people show signs of opioid addiction after receiving a legitimate prescription for chronic pain. They may develop opioid dependence without realizing it. For more than 10% of opioid users, this dependence will grow into addiction. When someone has an addiction to opioids, they’re unable to control or stop their use, even if they face negative consequences.
What Symptoms of Opioid Addiction Should I Look For?
You may notice changes in your loved one’s appearance, habits, or mood. The physical and behavioral signs of opioid addiction can be subtle at first, though they may grow obvious as time goes on.
Watch for these physical symptoms of opioid addiction:
- Lack of personal hygiene
- Drastic weight loss
- Changes in sleep habits
- Frequent flu or gastrointestinal symptoms without another cause
- Slowed reflexes and movements
- Scabs, sores, or wounds
- Slurred speech
- Drowsiness or insomnia
- Frequent anxiety and emotional distress
- Scabs, sores, or puncture wounds suggestive of IV drug use
Pay attention to these behavioral signs of opioid addiction:
- Stealing money or medications
- Meeting with multiple doctors to get multiple prescriptions
- Long-term use of opioids, even when not in pain
- Using opioids in dangerous situations (like while driving)
- Isolation and social withdrawal
- Poor judgment and decision-making
- Neglecting responsibilities
- Anger, aggression, or paranoia
- Unusual mood swings or personality changes
- Sudden emotional outbursts
- Impaired memory
- Inability to focus
Not everyone who has an opioid addiction will show every symptom. But if several of these signs are present simultaneously–especially if they’re a departure from the person’s usual health or behavior–they could indicate your loved one is developing a substance abuse problem.
Risk Factors for Opioid Addiction Signs
Anyone who takes opioids runs the risk of becoming addicted. However, some people do have a statistically higher risk based on their background, lifestyle, health history, and other factors.
If any of these risks apply to your loved ones, they may be more vulnerable to symptoms of opioid addiction:
- They have a personal or family history of substance abuse.
- They obtained opioids without a medical prescription.
- They’re in their teens or early 20s.
- They have friends who use opioids or spend time in environments where there’s frequent drug use.
- They’re a heavy smoker or tobacco user.
- They have a personal or family history of mental health conditions.
- They have extreme stresses in their lives, like poverty and unemployment.
Just because one or more of these risk factors are present doesn’t mean your loved one will develop an addiction to opioids. Their behavior is a much more reliable indicator of whether they need treatment.
Start Recovery at Greater Boston Addiction Centers
If your loved one does show signs of opioid addiction, help is available. The facilities at Greater Boston Addiction Centers offer multiple treatment programs to help clients overcome addictions, improve emotional regulation and other life skills, and approach sobriety with purpose. Clients can participate in daytime or evening intensive outpatient treatment. Find out how we can start your loved one on their recovery journey. Call us at 877.920.6583 or reach out online.