5 Warning Signs of Opiate Addiction

opiate-addiction

“And now my beauties, something with poison in it I think, with poison in it, but attractive to the eye and soothing to the smell . . . poppies, poppies, poppies will put them to sleep.” – The Wicked Witch of the West, The Wizard of Oz (1939)

Many of us have our first introduction to opium at a young age in this simple reference from a beloved film. The beautiful poppy, with its striking red petals and black pistol, contains a sinister secret.

The milk of the poppy, contained in its seed pod, has powerful sedative properties. It’s one of the world’s oldest known medicines. It also has the ability to produce a euphoric high. The drug made from this milk is opium and its classified as a controlled substance. Since 1914, the United States has recognized the addictiveness of this drug.

We no longer use the pure form of opium. The synthetic medical version of opium we know today as opiates. Opiate addiction has been the main driver of drug overdoses in the US since 2014. The deaths every year have continued to rise. In Florida, the increases in overdoses rose 5.9% from 2016-2017.

So, what drugs are on the opiates list? How do you spot the early signs of addiction in a loved one? Here we go over all that and let you know how to get them help.

What are Opiates and Five Warning Signs of an Opiate Addiction

Unlike other illegal narcotics like cocaine, opiates are mainly prescribed by a doctor and taken according to medical advice for the first time. The analgesic/pain-relieving qualities of the drug are perfect for post-surgical patients and others dealing with chronic pain.

So, before you fill your prescription you need to look twice at the name of the drug. If you have any risk of addiction, addictive tendencies, or are in recovery let your doctor know. Tell them you want to avoid controlled substances and to give you an alternative.

But, before you can avoid them you have to know what they are. So, which drugs are we talking about when we say opiates? Read on to find out.

What Drugs are on the Opiates List?

The first drug that comes to mind when you think about this epidemic is heroin. This is the illegal street version of this subset of medication. The reality of the hell of heroin addiction became realized on the big screen in the hit movie “Trainspotting” in 1996.

We saw just how far someone was willing to go for a fix and the consequences of this life-destroying drug. Since then, opiates/opioids have only gained in popularity.

This is due to their increased use, not only on the street but in hospitals and doctors’ offices. The typical opiate addict is no longer a junkie on the corner. They could be your own grandmother who got her hip replaced last year. They could be the new mom who couldn’t stop taking the Oxycodone after her c-section scar healed.

Here are some of the drug names to look for that are on the opiates list:

  • Morphine
  • Codeine
  • Hydromorphone (Dilaudid)
  • Hydrocodone (Vicodin, Lortab)
  • Oxycodone (OxyContin, Percocet)
  • Oxymorphone
  • Meperidine (Demerol)
  • Methadone
  • Fentanyl (Sublimaze, Actiq)
  • Tramadol

This is not an exhaustive list but gives you a good idea of the most popular drugs. Before you start taking any of these medications, consult with your doctor about the risk of dependency. Too often, people trust their doctors to know them and do what’s right. Don’t depend on a doctor with 100 or more patients to read your entire medical file before walking in the door.

You need to be your own advocate in medical situations. Never take a drug before you know what it’s for and what the risks are. Now, let’s take a look at some of the common signs of opiate addiction. Here’s the top five to pay attention to.

Physical Symptoms That Point to Addiction

These signs may start off slow. You may not notice them right away. Physical symptoms can go unnoticed.

Pay attention to subtle changes in behavior or mood that seem out of the ordinary. Some common problems to notice are:

  • Loss of libido and disinterest in sex or,
  • Higher and increased sex drive, wanting it all the time
  • Nodding off at odd times or out of nowhere
  • Constricted pupils
  • Slower than normal breathing
  • Always tired and taking more naps than before
  • Itchiness
  • Eating much more than they used to or much less
  • Lost interest in hygiene like showering, getting dressed, or brushing their teeth

Every addict will not look the same. Some people showcase addiction more than others. While one person will have 5 or 6 of these symptoms someone else has 1-2. Watch them close and try and stay with them for a 24-48 hour period to get a real sense of their dependancy level.

Psychological Symptoms and Clues of an Opiate Addiction

Psychological symptoms of opiate addiction are harsh. Outside of the euphoria of the high, there are scary and sometimes disturbing psychological consequences.

Here are some common psychological symptoms of opioid dependency:

  • Night terrors
  • Severe depression
  • Loss of sexual desire
  • Feelings of inadequacy and disgust for yourself
  • Psychotic episodes
  • Hallucinations
  • Sudden panic attacks without a previous history
  • A stronger sense of anxiety than the person had before
  • Sudden much-improved self-esteem
  • Increased irritability and erratic behaviors
  • Severe depressive episodes without a previous history of depression
  • Periods of extreme happiness followed by super lows
  • Confusion about simple tasks
  • Lowered motivation for things that once brought joy

The key factor in determining if these are clues to addiction is to note when they started and how long they’ve been going on. It’s harder to point to psychological clues if the person has a history of mental health issues. In that case, watch out for opposite reactions than they would normally have.

For instance, if someone has depression and goes through normal depressive episodes watch for changes. Without their medication changing or breakthroughs in therapy are they suddenly on top of the world. Do they wake up ready to go and seem overly enthusiastic about life? Look for clues that don’t seem like them.

Again, this is going to be different for every individual. Some may have lots of issues, some none. It’s all about paying attention. Let’s look at some clues within their social life that could tip you off.

Changes in Their Social Life

When someone becomes dependent on a drug their whole world begins to revolve around that drug. There is a shift in their entire worldview.

This can present itself in the people they surround themselves with. Have they started hanging out with a different crowd than normal? Have they stopped calling people they were close with?

Look at where they hang out now and with who and note any differences. Addicts tend to find other addicts to hang out with. Why? Because they understand each other. They will also have tips on how to score that next fix. Which doctor to go to for a script.

The next clue to figuring out if there is an addiction is watching their medical habits.

Changing Their Medical Team Often

As we said before, opiates have gotten off the street corner and into our household medicine cabinets. Your average opiate addict is going to be a normal person who got their original prescription for a valid reason and got hooked.

However, it’s getting harder and harder to get a prescription for these medications. These medicines have found their way onto the Schedule II Controlled Substances list.

What does that mean? Here’s a breakdown on the controlled substances list.

What is the Controlled Substances List and What Does Each Schedule Mean?

The Federal Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970, more commonly known as the Controlled Substances Act, became effective on May 1, 1971. This outlined the guidelines medical professionals had to follow to protect their patients from becoming addicted. This also helps determine the punishment for illegal use of these drugs.

Every drug, street or medicinal, is categorized into a schedule. This schedule rates the addictiveness of the substance. There are 5 schedules. The rating is based on the levels of codeine per dosage unit.

Reserved for the drugs with the highest likelihood of dependency, Schedule I is also the most regulated. Most of these drugs are illegal. These are the most addictive drugs out in the world. Heroin is a schedule I opiate.

Schedule II is where the majority of the opiates land. These drugs are legal but regulated and watched. According to the DEA, “Schedule II drugs, substances, or chemicals are drugs with a high potential for abuse, with use potentially leading to severe psychological or physical dependence.”

What Makes it Hard to Obtain Schedule II Drugs?

There are a number of pharmacies and prescription regulations on these very addictive substances. Even when you get a prescription for one it can take some doing to find a pharmacy to fill the prescription. They will usually have to special order it for you.

According to the Controlled Substances Act, prescriptions for these drugs are only applicable in emergency situations. The amount of medicine a patient receives needs to be the least amount to cover the current condition. The pharmacist has to obtain all of the doctor’s information, the patient’s information, and the original written prescription.

This leads to one of the main behavioral changes that point to an addiction to opiates.

Other Behavioral Changes to Look Out For

The most common behavioral change in an addict of this type is a hyper-focus around the drug. The person becomes concerned all the time about where they will go to get it when they will get it. They become worried and irritable when the amount of pills they have is running low.

With the strict regulations, it’s harder and harder to find a doctor to write you a prescription. This can lead to what’s called “doctor shopping”. Doctor shopping is the act of going to one doctor after another to see which will believe the story and give you the medicine.

This patient will also have a variety of pharmacies they get the drugs from to avoid suspicion. How can you notice this?

Pay attention to the pill bottles in the person’s home. Do they all come from the same pharmacy? Has the person been seeing new doctors a lot lately? Are they on the phone a lot of making appointments?

If you have access to their financial information pay attention to the locations of the purchases. Are there multiple pharmacy names with no explanation? Look for co-pays at medical offices. These can all be good clues of opiate addiction.

Get Yourself or Your Loved One Help Right Away

If you suspect opiate addiction the time to act is now. Overdose is a very real possibility with these medications. Your loved one is at a high risk of death every day the addiction continues.

The last thing you want is for them to become a statistic. What are some of your options? Look into inpatient detox centers to handle the initial physical withdrawal symptoms. Do not encourage the addicted person to try to stop on their own. They need to be under proper medical supervision.

Once the medical detox is over they can enter into a residential recovery program. There they get the tools they need to kick the habit and avoid the drug for the long haul. Many recovery programs are covered, at least in part, by your health insurance benefits.

Do you know someone who needs the help of a treatment center? We can help you get them the help they deserve. Contact us today and we can give you the best course of action. Remember, the first line of defense is a good offense. If you suspect addiction call right away.

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Content Reviewed by Jacklyn Steward

Jacklyn StewardJacklyn is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC) and an EMDR trained trauma therapy specialist with over 6 years of experience in the field of addiction. She has a Masters Degree in Mental Health and Substance Abuse Counseling from Nova Southeastern University.