If you worry that a loved one is struggling with opioid misuse, it is essential to recognize opioid use signs and symptoms as early on as possible. Recognizing these red flags and urging them towards recovery might be the support needed to save their life.
Consider, over the past few decades, overdoses from opioid drugs have taken the lives of countless Americans, with 500,000 opioid-related deaths from 1999 to 2019.1 Whether it’s misusing prescription opioids or partaking in illicit use, any opioid abuse poses severe risks to an individual’s health, happiness, and wellbeing. For these reasons, it is vital to know the most common signs and symptoms to look for if you suspect a loved one has an opioid problem.
What Are Opioid Drugs?
Opioid drugs are an umbrella term for drugs that relax the body and reduce pain levels, triggering the release of the same reward neurotransmitters involved in eating activities.2 Prescription opioid drugs, when used under the supervision of a doctor, can help immensely with chronic pain, providing postoperative pain relief and treating specific health symptoms. But despite these benefits, 8-12% of those using opioids for chronic pain will, unfortunately, develop an opioid use disorder.3
A few of the many opioid drugs misused by teens and adults alike include:
5 Ways To Recognize Opioid Use
Opioid misuse can slowly creep up on sufferers. It often starts with taking opioids when pain isn’t present, using more than the prescribed dosage of an opioid, or taking an opioid in a recreational setting.
Continued after video:
To prevent these dangerous behaviors from going unnoticed in your loved one, here are common changes to look out for that accompany opioid misuse:
#1: Changes In Personality And Mood
Abusing any drug can negatively affect an individual’s personality, mood, and psychological state. Those abusing opioids often display these shifts and can exhibit any or all of the following symptoms:
- Mood swings
- Restlessness or overly energetic mood
- A cranky or agitated state
- Exacerbation of co-occurring mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety
#2: Shifts In Sleeping Pattern
Since opioids are depressants and slow down the central nervous system, they increase an individual’s lethargy. If you notice that your loved one abruptly falls asleep at inappropriate times, experiences daytime sleepiness, or sleeps well past their usual wake-up time, the presence of opioids may be the cause.
#3: Social Isolation
Whether it’s to hide their physical symptoms, avoid feeling shame or embarrassment, or from impaired functioning, many individuals suffering from opioid misuse withdraw from regular social interaction and everyday responsibilities. It is important to check in with your loved one if they start avoiding commonly attended settings such as:
- Family get-togethers
- Extracurricular activities
#4: Changes In Physical Appearance or Behaviors
If you suspect that your loved one may be under the influence of an opioid substance, here are a few common physical symptoms to look out for:
- Slurring of words
- Dilated or constricted pupils
- Frequent itching
- Moving slowly
- Low heart rate, temperature, and blood pressure
- Cognitive impairments
When you notice that these physical changes are consistently present in your loved one, it may be an indication of an opioid problem.
#5: Changes In Financial Security
Opioids are quite expensive and cost individuals thousands of dollars to maintain a consistent supply. If your loved one is suddenly very preoccupied with money, stealing money, or asking for financial support, it is vital to explore the potential of opioid misuse.
What to Do After Recognizing Opioid Use
Knowledge is the first step in helping your loved one and can empower you to take action on their behalf. Everyone deserves support when suffering from opioid addiction. If you recognize signs of opioid use in your loved one regularly, the next step is to seek help from drug addiction professionals at a treatment center.
Treatment For Opioid Use
The knowledgeable team at Ocean Hills Recovery has the training and expertise to assist with safe drug detoxing, counseling, and facilitating a supportive recovery community.
At Ocean Hills Recovery, clients suffering from disordered opioid use can receive support in the form of:
- 12 step recovery program
- Inpatient residential treatment
- Partial hospitalization treatment
- Intensive outpatient treatment
- Group and individual therapy
Drug and Alcohol Recovery With Ocean Hills Recovery
Ocean Hills Recovery’s team of compassionate professionals helps clients regain control of their lives and find purpose in a substance-free future. If you recognize opioid use in a loved one, don’t hesitate to contact our facility for assistance as you support your loved ones’ journey through recovery.
About the author:
Nicole earned her doctoral degree in Psychology with an emphasis on marriage and family therapy at California School of Professional Psychology. Her doctoral thesis was a grounded theory study exploring the role of alienation and connectedness in the life course of addiction. She specializes in treating addiction and trauma. She is certified in DBT and EMDR, two of the most highly regarded evidence-based methods in psychotherapy. Dr. Doss is a strong LGBT advocate and provides open and affirming support to her LGBT clients.
Dr. Doss’s earlier education included graduating cum laude from the University of California, Irvine in June of 2007 with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology. While there, she received honors recognition by Psi Chi and Golden Key honor societies.
Nicole has been working with alcoholics and addicts in our California drug and alcohol rehab center as an advisor and counselor for many years. She is passionate about providing quality counseling and care to her clients. Her main focus is on integrating the 12 Step and disease models of addiction with experiential therapeutic theory. She is married to Greg; they have two adorable sons together and an energetic yellow Labrador Retriever.