Top 6 Signs of Opioid Addiction to Watch Out For in Loved Ones

signs of opioid addiction

Each day, more than 115 people in the United States die after overdosing on opioids. In 2017, of the 70,200 drug overdose-related deaths, 68 percent of them involved opioids.

These statistics are shocking, and, unfortunately, the problem seems to be getting worse. Due to the high number of people using and abusing opioids, there’s a good chance you know someone who is struggling with an addiction to these substances.

However, if you don’t know the signs of opioid addiction, you may not realize your loved one needs help.

Learn what these signs are so you can help those who are struggling with this serious problem. Keep reading to learn about some of the most common signs of opioid abuse here.

What are Opioids?

Before diving into the signs of opioid addiction, it’s a good idea to become better acquainted with what exactly opioids are.

Opioids are a type of prescription medication used for relieving pain. Most often they are prescribed by doctors to help with pain resulting from:

  • Chronic conditions like cancer
  • Surgery
  • Injuries
  • Dental work

When used correctly, opioids are completely safe. However, if someone stops following a doctor’s instructions, and misuse opioids, they may become addicted.

Signs of Opioid Addiction

When someone is suffering from opioid addiction, they will display physical, behavioral and even mental symptoms. Being aware of what these are can help you, help your loved one.

1. Changes in Behavior

One of the first signs of opioid addiction is changes in behavior. The addicted individual is going to stop making eye contact with family and friends, experience mood swings and easily become irritable.

They may also seem unusually nervous or excited, or even in a state of euphoria. Addicted individuals usually experience sudden and often violent changes in their energy and may become hostile without warning.

When the addiction takes over, activities the person enjoyed in the past may be neglected to get high. The individual may switch friend groups, become isolated or engage in secretive behavior.

In most cases, you will be able to tell the person is acting differently and that something isn’t right.

2. Physical Changes

Not only does opioid addiction affect a person’s behavior, it can (and will) also affect the person physically. You may notice the individual’s physical appearance begins to change. They may gain or lose weight, and when the person talks, they may have a raspy voice or slur their words.

Other physical signs of opioid addiction include:

  • Needle marks or scarring on the feet, hands or arms
  • Extreme drowsiness
  • Flushed skin
  • Reduced sexual performance or desire
  • Small pupils
  • Constipation
  • Slowed breathing
  • Lack of balance and coordination

These are all signs of addiction that you should be aware of.

3. Strange Items/Drug Paraphernalia

It’s possible to abuse opioids in several ways. They can be taken orally, injected, smoked or snorted.

There are some signs that someone may be using/abusing opioids, including:

  • Medication bottles with no labels
  • Piles of burned tinfoil
  • Small pieces of balloons or cotton swabs
  • Bent spoons
  • Small pieces of tubes or straws
  • Rolled up dollar bills
  • Needles or syringes
  • Hose clamps

If you find these items discarded in a trash can, or in a person’s room, then it may be indicative of opioid addiction.

4. Someone Who Goes “Doctor Shopping”

Doctor shopping is a term used to describe when a person obtains opioid prescriptions from several different healthcare providers. They do this without the prescribers knowing the patient already has a prescription from someone else.

The individual may also claim to have “lost” their prescription and require another one. Or, they may complain that their pain is so severe, they need a stronger prescription.

Even though prescription drugs are sometimes challenging to obtain, the individual may turn to opioids that are more readily available, such as heroin. This works similarly to other opioids, helps to fulfill cravings and urges, and is much more powerful when initially injected.

Many addictions to heroin arise from prescription opioid abuse.

5. Issues with Relationships, Responsibilities, and Memory

The individual who is addicted may seem disoriented, confused or have issues concentrating. This can result in adverse effects on relationships, and other aspects of their life. They may also be slow to answer questions and ignore obligations and responsibilities.

Another issue for the addicted individual is that relationships may begin to deteriorate. This is often due to the person favoring the use of the opioid over maintaining the bonds with family members and friends.

You may notice the individual can’t remember appointments, pay attention to conversations or even miss gatherings. Personal hygiene, appearance, family members and daily chores may also be neglected.

6. Withdrawal Symptoms if the Use of the Opioid is Stopped

If someone has developed a psychological or physical dependence on opioids, then withdrawal symptoms may occur if they try to stop taking them or reduce how much is taken. This is often called “dope sick.”

There are specific signs of this condition, including flu-like symptoms that are quite painful and uncomfortable. A person may begin to experience withdrawal symptoms after just a few hours of not taking the drug.

Don’t Ignore the Signs of Opioid Addiction

Now that you know the signs of opioid addiction, you are in a position to take action and help family and friends who are facing this disease. Don’t ignore the signs, as they are only going to get worse, and may eventually result in an overdose.

If you are worried that a friend or loved one may suffer from opioid addiction, contacting a third-party treatment facility for help is a smart move. You can contact us to learn more about the services and help we offer for those suffering from opioid addiction.

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.