Opiate addiction affects people from all walks of life, which can make it difficult to know when someone is addicted and needs help. According to the National Library of Medicine, there are an estimated 2.1 million people in the United States suffering from opioid addiction.
Knowing how to recognize the many different signs of addiction can help you determine whether a loved one is at risk and needs treatment. Continue reading to learn how to spot the warning signs of addiction and dependence if you suspect someone close to you may be suffering from opiate addiction.
Drug Addiction vs. Dependence: What’s the Difference?
Addiction and dependence are terms that are often used interchangeably when it comes to substance use disorders, but both conditions are completely different from one another. With some substances, it’s possible to be addicted without being dependent, and vice versa. However, in the case of opiates, it’s rare for someone to have an addiction without being dependent given how these drugs affect the brain.
Addiction tends to be psychological in nature. The National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) defines it as a “chronic, relapsing disorder characterized by compulsive drug seeking, continued use despite harmful consequences, and long-lasting changes in the brain.” The NIDA also regards addiction as both a complex brain disorder and a mental illness. It can occur when a person repeatedly misuses a substance.
Dependence occurs when the body adapts to the presence of a drug and requires higher amounts to achieve desired effects. Dependence is also characterized by the onset of withdrawal symptoms when the person suddenly stops using the drug. For example, if a person uses opiates every day for a few weeks, they may stop experiencing euphoria and pain relief with their usual dose, and need higher doses to achieve these effects. That person can eventually become dependent on opiates if they continue using high amounts on a regular basis, and their bodies adapt to the continuous presence of these drugs.
What Are Warning Signs Of Opiate Addiction?
Signs of addiction and behaviors of an addict are always the same regardless of the drug or substance the person is using. What characterizes addiction is by a set of behaviors including the inability to stop using a drug, and failure to fulfill important work, social, and family obligations.
Signs of opiate addiction include:
- Using opiates in higher amounts over a longer period than was initially intended.
- Inability to cut down or control opiate use.
- Spending a great deal of time obtaining and using opiates, and recovering from the effects.
- Having strong desires and cravings to use opiates.
- Continuing to use opiates even when it results in the neglect of work, school, and family.
- Continuing to use opiates even when it keeps causing social and interpersonal problems.
- Giving up social and recreational activities to use opiates instead.
- Using opiates even when it is physically hazardous to do so.
- Using opiates even when knowing it is causing or contributing to physical and psychological health problems.
- Developing a tolerance for opiates.
- Having withdrawal symptoms when reducing doses of opiates or stopping use.
Early signs of opiate addiction may include taking an extra pill every now and then to achieve greater euphoria and other effects. He or she may start looking for new doctors who can potentially write additional opiate prescriptions. The person may also start talking about opiates more frequently as these drugs occupy their thoughts. As a result, they may start spending more time alone or at home instead of with friends and relatives.
What Are Warning Signs Of Opiate Dependence?
Opiate dependence is often characterized by physical signs and symptoms, but may also include some behavioral signs. People who are physically dependent on opiates usually keep taking these drugs to delay or avoid withdrawal symptoms.
Signs of opiate dependence may include:
- Strong urges or cravings to use opiates
- Drowsiness and sedation
- Changes in sleeping patterns
- Nodding off
- Slowed breathing
- Weight loss
- Low sex drive
- Poor personal hygiene
- Low physical activity level
- Doctor shopping (visiting multiple doctors to obtain multiple prescriptions)
- Stealing opiates from friends and family
- Flu-like symptoms/opiate withdrawal symptoms
Opiate withdrawal symptoms are often comparable to a bad case of the flu, reports the World Health Organization, and include nausea, vomiting, muscle and bone aches, diarrhea, and sweating. These symptoms can begin anywhere between eight and 48 hours after the last dose, depending on the type of opiate your friend is using.
Top Signs Your Friend Needs Help
If you already know your friend is an addict, the best thing you can do is connect them with professional help and treatment right away, or stage an intervention that ultimately results in their seeking treatment at a drug rehab center. This is particularly important if your friend has opiate addiction, as treatment can often help prevent them from having an overdose.
Here are top signs of addiction that indicate your friend may need help:
- Changes in their personality, such as moodiness and irritability, or loss of interest in favorite activities
- Frequent lying and more secrecy
- Changes in their health, such as frequent flu-like symptoms or memory loss
- Suicidal tendencies or thoughts
- Finding reasons to justify drug use
- Unexplained injuries
- Declined performance at work or school
If you and your friend with addiction have mutual friends, consider asking your other friends whether they’ve noticed any changes in the person’s behavior and health. Tell them which signs to look for if someone has drug addiction, then make treatment arrangements for your friend, if necessary.
When To Call For a Professional’s Help Regarding Addiction To Drugs
Contact a professional drug detox or drug rehab center if you suspect your friend or loved one is suffering from opiate addiction. According to the NIDA, nearly 50,000 people in the U.S. died from an opioid-related overdose in 2019. Getting help from a professional can help your loved one avoid becoming another opioid statistic.
Call emergency medical services right away if your friend or loved one has been using opiates and is showing the following signs of an opioid overdose:
- Slowed or stopped breathing
- Slowed or stopped heart rate
- Vomiting or gurgling noises
- Inability to be aroused from sleep
- Inability to speak or unresponsive
- Bluish or purplish tint to nails and lips
- Limp body
- Pale or clammy skin
If you strongly suspect that your friend has opiate addiction, consider obtaining naloxone from a local pharmacy. Naloxone is an opioid overdose reversal drug that may be able to revive your friend. It is available to purchase without a prescription at most U.S. pharmacies.
How To Find Drug Addiction Facilities
Addiction treatment facilities are located nearly everywhere throughout the U.S. to help the country fight its ongoing opioid epidemic. If your friend or loved one is showing signs of addiction, use the Internet to locate nearby drug addiction facilities in your area or the city of your choice. Look specifically for treatment facilities that offer opioid detox medications such as buprenorphine and Suboxone that can effectively reduce and minimize withdrawal symptoms, and help your friend experience a comfortable recovery.
Summer House Detox Center in Miami, Florida offers evidence-based opiate detox programs to help people experience a safe withdrawal and recovery from opiate dependence. Contact us today at 800-719-1090 to learn more about our many customizable drug detox programs.