Opioid addiction can be difficult to identify. However, there are some behavioral habits that you may be able to pick up on if you suspect that a loved one is addicted. Below are just some of the signs to watch out for.
People get addicted to opioids because of the feelgood ‘high’. However, this can come at a cost, often causing withdrawal symptoms which can cause people to feel low and irritable.
If your loved one seems to swing between happy and sad/angry, consider whether drugs could be to blame. Regular painkillers in the right doses should not produce these symptoms, although long-term use may encourage these behaviors.
Changes in sleep patterns
Opioids can cause disturbed sleep patterns. Users who are addicted may get up in the middle of the night and struggle to get back to sleep or may spend more time sleeping during the day in order to catch up. If you have noticed that your loved one is sleeping more/less and you know that they are taking medication, you may want to consider if this is linked.
Confusion and poor judgment
Does your loved one seem like they’re constantly distracted? Are they making odd decisions, getting lost, or neglecting responsibilities? It’s possible that this could be due to opioids.
Both the high of opioids and the withdrawal symptoms can negatively affect concentration and result in poor coordination. Someone who has recently become addicted may seem like they are constantly ‘not with it’.
Loss of interest in hobbies/passions
Is your loved one no longer interested in things that they were once passionate about? Perhaps they’ve given up hobbies or seem to be no longer focused on goals. Opioid addiction can make people demotivated.
Those with addiction are more likely to be fixated on getting their next high – they may stay indoors more or schedule more doctor visits than usual in order to get more prescriptions.
Lying and secrecy around taking medication
Opioids are commonly obtained through prescriptions as a form of pain relief. If a loved one has previously stated that they are no longer in pain but they are still taking pain relief medication, you should question whether they could be addicted.
Similarly, if a loved one has claimed that they have stopped taking medication but you discover hidden pills, it could be a sign that they have an addiction. If you or another family member takes pain relief medication, you should also be suspicious if pills or entire packets/bottles go missing.
What to do if you suspect your loved one may be addicted?
It could be important to confront your loved one about their addiction. If you can get proof that they are addicted, you may be able to start recommending addiction treatment. There are many forms of addiction treatment including telemedicine and intensive outpatient treatment.
Not all people with opioid addiction will own up to their addiction, and some will refuse to get help. Be persistent in showing your concern while staying empathetic. An intervention may be necessary if they continue to deny behavior/fail to seek help.