Signs of an Addiction to Opioids
Author: Atlanta Addiction Recovery Center Editor
It seems like whenever we turn on the TV, our computers, mobile devices or the radio, we are confronted with the stark reality that opioids are killing Americans at an alarming rate. It’s on the news every day. It’s affecting people we know. It’s even perhaps infiltrated our own circle of friends and family. According to the CDC more than 115 Americans die every day after overdosing on opioids. The opioid epidemic has become so pervasive that the National Institutes of Health (NIH) just announced a billion dollar initiative to combat the problem.
History of Opioids in America
Opioid medication was and is still prescribed by licensed healthcare practitioners for the relief of moderate to severe pain due to surgery, accident, or other health-related issues such as cancer. When opioid medications were first released by pharmaceutical companies who manufactured them, they were thought to be safe and non addictive. However, what we saw over time were people who began to abuse the pills simply for the sake of their effects—calmness, happiness, and pleasurable feelings. Now, doctors have been warned to only prescribe these meds when absolutely necessary.
When prescriptions ran out, people turned to the black market for pills and in many cases, turned to heroin, a type of opioid drug made from morphine that is cheaper and easier to obtain on the streets. Thus, opioids cover a huge variety of drugs, ranging from prescribed pain relievers such as oxycodone, codeine, and morphine to illegal drugs such as heroin.
Most Commonly Abused Prescription Pain Medications
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “opioid medications can produce a sense of well-being and pleasure because these drugs affect brain regions involved in reward. People who abuse opioids may seek to intensify their experience by taking the drug in ways other than those prescribed.”
Some of these opioid medications include:
- Hydrocodone (sometimes mixed with acetaminophen and sold as Lortab or Vicodin)
- Codeine, a medication given for chronic and severe coughing
- Oxycodone, perhaps one of the most frequently discussed, often sold in the form of OxyContin, Percocet, Endocet, Percodan, and Roxicet
- Meperidine, often sold as Demerol
- Dilaudid, also known as hydromorphone
Is My Loved One Abusing Opioids?
It may not be easy to tell right away if your loved one is abusing opioids. However, there are some signs or symptoms that you should look for and become more apparent over time.
- Small, constricted pupils
- Slurred speech
- Sleepiness and difficulty staying awake
- Dry mouth
- Less social
- Mood swings
- Shallow breathing
- Difficulty with concentration or memory
- Depression and feelings of being sad
- Slow movements and reactions
- Craving and seeking pain medications on a frequent basis
- Difficulties with finances, work, school or relationships
- Neglecting health, appearance
- Weight change
Heroin addiction produces the same symptoms; however, since heroin is usually injected into a vein, you may be able to identify needle marks or bruising on arms, hands, and ankles.
How Do You Know When Your Loved One Needs Professional Help?
If you notice any of these symptoms and believe that opioids are consuming your loved one’s daily life, you have every right to worry. Over time, opioid addiction is likely to lead to serious problems and even death. Even if your loved one seems to be functioning throughout the day, at some point, it may worsen and become a dire situation. It’s important to understand that an addict cannot just stop abusing drugs. For many opioid and heroin addicts, it’s the sickness of withdrawal that keeps them using.
Learning or believing that your family member, friend, or loved one has developed an addiction can leave you feeling sad, angry, or scared about what his or her future holds. If you believe that your loved one is suffering from a drug addiction, call us. Atlanta Addiction Recovery Centers offers private consultations to help you determine the next steps. The sooner addiction treatment begins the better.