Signs of Opioid Addiction
Opioid Abuse Warning Signs
How do you know if someone is abusing opioids? A popular stereotype of an opioid addict is that of a homeless, unkempt heroin junkie shooting up in an alleyway downtown or a condemned drug house. Contrary to this perception, many who abuse opioids do a good job of hiding their use. An opioid addict can be much harder to spot than an abuser of alcohol or other drugs. With an alcoholic, the smell of booze on their breath is a dead giveaway. So what are the signs that tell you someone is abusing opioids? There is no way to know for sure other than to ask the individual if they are using or to get him or her to take a drug test. The issue with this is that many addicts will downplay or deny their abuse, and some addicts may lash out if confronted about their drug use.
Below you can find a list of some of the common warning signs to look out for that could indicate that someone you know may be abusing opioids. Remember that many addicts hide their addiction well, and just because an individual don't display any obvious signs does not necessarily mean he or she isn't using. The reverse of this is also true though — many of these signs could have an innocent explanation and many may actually be symptoms of another unrelated medical issue. Just because someone takes frequent naps does not automatically mean that he or she is abusing opioids.
- Small or pinpoint pupils. Opioids cause the pupils, the black dots in the center of the eye, to shrink considerably while intoxicated. Pupils normally react to the amount of light in the environment. In a dimly lit room the pupils will become larger and in a brighter room the pupils will become smaller. Someone who has recently used an opioid drug may have very small or pinpoint sized pupils in a room with very little light.
- Withdrawal symptoms set in if an opioid addict does not use any opioids for a period of time. These symptoms often mimic those of a cold or flu. It doesn't take too long for withdrawal symptoms to begin to appear, and many addicts frequently experience withdrawal symptoms between doses and on days where they may be unable to obtain any drugs. Administration of an opioid drug will cause the symptoms to disappear. Often claiming to be 'sick,' or suddenly coming down with the flu but spontaneously feeling better in the same day may be a sign that someone is addicted to opioids.
- Nodding out or temporarily falling sleep during inappropriate times. Since opioids act as a depressant on the central nervous system, someone who is intoxicated may appear less alert and sleepy. This is commonly called 'nodding,' and some long-term addicts who have, over time, built up a tolerance to the sedative effects of opioids may not experience nodding at all.
- Needle marks on the arms or elsewhere may be present on addicts who administer their opioids by intravenous injection. Some IV users may always wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants to conceal track marks.
- IV paraphernalia such as used syringes, or spoons with residue in them or burn marks on the bottom may be hidden or left lying around by addicts who administer their opioids by intravenous injection.
- Empty bottles for prescription opioid drugs such as Percocet or Vicodin. If you or any of your relatives recently had surgery and were prescribed opioids for pain control, you may find that some pills go missing.
- Social signs of opioid addiction include withdrawing from normal activities, neglecting work and other responsibilities, and problems maintaining relationship with family and friends. Opioid addiction causes a person to spend more and more time and effort into finding and using drugs, and to neglect all other aspects of his or her life.
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