Opiate addiction can be difficult to identify. Opiate addicts include people from all walks of life, regardless of their socioeconomic status, religion, sexual identity, or gender. Opiate addiction is not limited to heroin or fentanyl abuse, but rather a wide variety of opioids. There are countless individuals that are addicted to prescription opioid painkillers such as Vicodin, Dilaudid, Norco, Percocet, morphine, or oxycodone.
To recognize if someone you know is addicted to opiates, there are some specific signs and symptoms to look for. These can help you decipher whether or not your loved one is using opiates and has become addicted.
Recognize the Sign & Symptoms of Opiate Addiction
The following will serve as a guide to help you recognize some of the common signs that opiate addicts typically display. Initially, the signs for opiate dependency will resemble addiction to drugs in general but become more specific over time and can vary per person. It is wise first to know the typical signs of addiction. The following is a starting point to reference whether or not someone you know needs help with opioid addiction.
Have they experienced any of the following: Loss of work or discontinued enrollment at school? Financial problems, or legal matters that include arrests and court dates? Increased arguments with relatives or friends? Showing disinterest in regular activities, or sleeping too much or too little? Perhaps they are lying, stealing, lack self-care, or suddenly lose weight? Are they engaged with a new group of friends that are different from their usual social group? Of course, your loved one may very well deny these signs, and denial in addiction is very common.
More specific signs for prescription opioid addiction include:
- Has this person recently required a prescription for opiate painkillers?
- Are they seeing a doctor more than they used to?
- Have they been hiding their prescriptions or pills?
- Other signs include needing money often and not having enough money for anything else.
Another sign is an increase in experiencing various types of tragedies. These occurrences are common to opiate addicts because this (lying or making up elaborate stories) is how they convince people to give them money to buy their drugs or to defend their whereabouts. However, these tragedies could be real, but keep track of the number of dramatic failures or events and if it seems out of proportion, likely, some, or all of them are not true.
Keep a Close Eye on Someone You May Suspect
If someone you love is addicted to opiates, they will experience withdrawal symptoms when those drugs are out of their system, or if they don’t get an opportunity to get high. Opiate addicts will sleep more than they used to in the past. They will also be prone to sleepiness or ‘nod’ off during conversations or other activities where falling asleep is unusual. Another physical symptom of opiate addiction is nausea and vomiting. Those are very common symptoms of physical withdrawal and the detox process that begins to take place.
Other physical symptoms include slurred speech or grogginess, swelling in the hands and arms; marks or bruises on the hands and arms, as well as other limbs, and abscesses. These are all indications that someone is likely injecting drugs and are common to heroin use but can include all other opiate drugs as they can be injected, snorted, and swallowed. Physical symptoms also can include diarrhea, loss of appetite, headaches and body aches, and shallow or slow breathing.
Recognize Opioid Withdrawal Symptoms
The number one physical symptom that is most easily recognizable is what opiate addicts refer to as ‘pinned’ eyes, and that is restricted pupils. Opiates cause the pupils to restrict and appear very small even in the dark or low lights when pupils usually dilate to let in more light to increase their ability to see.
It is important to be aware of paraphernalia that is representative of opiate addiction. Have you noticed that there are spoons left out with burnt bottoms? Are there plastic baggies or tin foil packages in the trash or inside drawers? Other paraphernalia includes needles, pipes, mirrors with power on them, and prescription bottles. Many opiate addicts keep their drug paraphernalia, especially syringes and a cooking spoon together in a kit for them to access. Be cautious when looking for paraphernalia as these items are dangerous.
Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine has put together a list of signs and symptoms that a person may display if they are addicted to opiates and it’s very useful to reference. They refer to opiate addiction:
“as opioid use disorder or OUD and states that Opioid use disorder is a medical condition defined by not being able to abstain from using opioids, and behaviors centered around opioid use that interferes with daily life. Being physically dependent on an opioid can occur when someone has an opioid use disorder and is characterized by withdrawal symptoms such as cravings and sweating. However, people can misuse opioids and not have a physical dependence. When a person has a physical dependence, it can be particularly hard to stop taking opioids, and that dependence can interfere with daily routines, including personal relationships or finances.”
Common Signs of Opioid Addiction per Johns Hopkins:
“The inability to control opioid use, uncontrollable cravings, drowsiness, changes in sleep habits, weight loss, frequent flu-like symptoms, decreased libido, lack of hygiene, changes in exercise habits, isolation from family or friends, stealing from family, friends or businesses and new financial difficulties” (JHUSM)
Another way to discern if your loved one is addicted to opiates is to measure their interest in activities they once loved, including their relationships with family and friends. Have they stopped coming to regular dinners or stopped answering calls or text messages from family and friends? Are they reluctant to do fun things, such as going to the movies, shopping, or going out to eat?
Disinterest in things that used to provide joy and pleasure is a common sign that a person is interested in something else. If the other signs and symptoms of opiate addiction are apparent, your loved one likely needs professional opiate addiction treatment. Garden State Treatment Center is here to help and our solution-focused drug treatment programs specialize in treating opiate dependency at its core.