Opioid addiction is a raging epidemic affecting countless people including adults and children. The opioid epidemic, despite the efforts of government agencies and health regulators, has only grown in the last several years. Opioids first became available in the late 1990s when pharmaceutical companies assured medical healthcare professionals that patients would not become addicted to prescription pain relievers. Fast forward to current times, and 33,000 Americans have died as a result of opioid addiction in 2015. In addition, opioid overdoses increased by 30% from July 2016 to September 2017.
These numbers are staggering, but it shows that addiction does not discriminate. Opioid addiction has grown mainly because people have not realized the dangers associated with the drugs. Believing that getting medication through prescriptions assigned to you by a medical professional will somehow safeguard you against addiction doesn’t work in this case.
There are hundreds of symptoms associated with addiction, with different symptoms appearing for each addict.
The best way to break them down is through an understanding of the physical, behavioral, and psychological symptoms that can occur. If you have begun to notice behavior not fitting a family member and suspect an opioid addiction, here are some signs to be aware of:
Physical symptoms of addiction can be noticeable or minimally perceptible; it depends on how hard the addict is trying to conceal their addiction. Symptoms can include euphoria after having just taken the drug, loss of consciousness, slow breathing, weight loss, vomiting, nausea, itchy skin, rapid heart rate, constricted pupils, tiredness, dry mouth, sweating, lightheadedness, flushed skin, and sleeping for long periods of time or not sleeping at all. Symptoms will present themselves differently in each person, and the longer the addiction continues, the more serious symptoms can become.
Addiction can lead to erratic behavior, which can be a big departure from a loved one’s usual demeanor. Behaviors including slurred speech, poor coordination, loss of interests, social withdrawal, stealing, lying, irritability, angry outbursts, or illegal activities are all possible when abusing the drug. While a loved one might be able to hide physical symptoms, the behavior is harder to conceal. If your loved one is acting out of character on a consistent basis, it might be time to investigate the cause. If certain behaviors seem off and your loved one is acting out with extreme highs followed by extreme lows, offer your love and support to seek treatment.
Countless studies have shown that substance abuse affects every aspect of a person. All too often people forget the psychological implications that accompany drug abuse, particularly opioids. An addict may feel increased anxiety, paranoia, psychosis, euphoria, irritability, anxiety/panic attacks, depression, and low motivation. Some addicts will gain confidence in themselves because the drug gives them a feeling of being powerful. For others, the opposite might occur where it feels like the world is falling in around them. Opioids easily lend themselves to addiction because they alter brain chemistry and create artificial endorphins that block pain and make people feel good. Once someone begins to abuse opioids, their brain is no longer able to create endorphins on its own and will start to rely on the artificial endorphins.
Opiate addiction can have many implications for a person’s life, almost all of them being negative. The longer an addiction goes on, the more at risk the person becomes. Opiates can cause serious and sometimes permanent damage, so getting help as soon as possible is the best course of action. If you have started to see signs or symptoms of addiction, don’t wait for things to get worse. The chance of recovery is possible with top treatment centers and trusted professionals.
Erica Franco Mortimer, MA, LPC, LCADC
Founder and CEO
Center for Healing
Erica is a licensed therapist with over twenty-years experience in mental health. Erica offers practical and straight forward advice to those struggling with addiction and their families. Having deep insight and understanding of addiction, Erica is able to offer guidance to those looking to regain control of their lives.