Anyone who uses prescription opioids can quickly become addicted to them. Opioid addiction is a widespread disease that doesn’t discriminate based on age, gender or race. But while this disease is common, it’s also highly dangerous — and potentially deadly. That’s why early intervention is crucial.
If you think a loved one has become addicted to opioids — or if you’re concerned about your own opioid use — you can help immensely by learning about opioid addiction, recognizing its symptoms and discovering ways to help someone through their opioid abuse.
What Is Opioid Addiction?
Opioid addiction is the result of changes in the brain that come from ongoing use medication or illicit drugs that reduce the perception of pain and provide feelings of comfort and euphoria. When we participate in an activity we enjoy, the brain produces dopamine naturally. Opioids trigger the release of dopamine as well but at a much higher rate than normal.
The brain begins to crave that over time and soon an individual begins to take more of the medication or illicit drug to achieve that desired effect. At the same time, the brain slows the amount of dopamine that is naturally produced. Soon, they’ll become dependent on these opioids and won’t be able to function without them.
This addiction is as physical as it is mental. Withdrawal from opioids can produce physical symptoms that keep people trapped inside a cycle of misuse.
What Are the Common Signs of Opioid Abuse?
Even innocent opioid use for pain management can quickly spiral into an addiction if a person’s dependence isn’t treated. This addiction presents itself in many ways, though each symptom on its own might not necessarily be a sign of opioid abuse. Learning which symptoms are commonly seen together can make it easier for you to recognize that a loved one needs help or that you yourself should seek treatment for opioid addiction.
Behavioral changes are a common first sign of opioid abuse. Someone suffering from opioid addiction might:
- Use opioids for an extended amount of time
- Take larger amounts of a prescription than directed
- Spend prolonged periods using or obtaining opioids
- Withdrawal from activities they once enjoyed
- Have trouble concentrating, sleeping or staying awake
- Unsuccessfully try to decrease the number of opioids they take
- Prioritize opioid use over a job or other responsibilities
- Develop financial issues from spending money on prescriptions
You or a doctor might also notice several physical symptoms that are common among people with opioid addictions, including:
- Constricted pupils
- Flushed skin
- Engagement in impulsive, risky behaviors
- Increased heart rate
- High blood pressure
- Decreased appetite
- Reduced sense of pain
- Needle marks in arms or legs
Just as opioids change the body and create physical symptoms, they also alter the mind. You should also look for some of the following mood-based or psychological symptoms in someone you suspect has an opioid addiction:
- Increased anxiety and depression
- Anger and irritability
- Lower drive and motivation
- Anxiety attacks
- Sudden mood swings
- Increased confidence and self-esteem
What Can I Do About Opioid Addiction?
If your loved one is struggling with opioid addiction, one of the best ways you can help them is by encouraging them to seek treatment. An opioid addiction treatment program can help people manage their painful physical withdrawal symptoms as well as the emotional pain and shame they might feel. We encourage you to sit down with your loved one, listen to them — without judgment — and talk to them about receiving help at an addiction treatment center.
If you’re looking for treatment for yourself or a loved one, the team at AppleGate Recovery is here to help. We offer medication-assisted outpatient treatment, which combines prescription opioid addiction medication with ongoing counseling services — all while you continue living your life outside of treatment. Contact us online or at 888-488-5337 to take the first step in your addiction recovery.