Is your loved one on drugs, or just going through a rough couple of months?

It can be difficult to identify if your loved one is struggling with an opioid use disorder, as many symptoms of addiction are shared with other conditions. Being able to recognize opioid use signs is more important than ever though.

The opioid epidemic is raging across America, with fentanyl overdoses having become one of the leading causes of death in recent years. In 2021 alone, fentanyl overdoses resulted in over 70,000 deaths. 

Being equipped with the knowledge to identify an opioid use disorder in a loved one just might save someone’s life one day.

In this article, we’re going to take a closer look at opioid use disorders and share with you the top opioid use signs to watch out for in your loved ones.

What are opioids?

“Opioid” is an umbrella term that encompasses a specific class of pain-relieving drugs. They are incredibly potent — the illegal drug heroin is categorized within this class — and was intended to only treat patients who were suffering from chronic or severe pain.

Prescriptions have tripled since opioids’ initial launch in the 1900s, resulting in this medication becoming widely available and fairly easy to obtain. 

Nowadays, opioids have become one of the most popular recreational drugs, and are the number one cause of overdose-related deaths.

Some of the most common (and dangerous) drugs on the opioids list are:

  • Fentanyl 
  • Hydrocodone (Vicodin)
  • Oxycodone
  • Morphine
  • Codeine
  • Methadone

Several of those names are probably familiar to you — whether prescribed to yourself or a loved one or if there’s an opioid use disorder present in you or a loved one. The majority of people in the twenty-first century have encountered or are regularly experiencing the effects of opioids.

Opioid use signs

Before you confront someone you love about a possible opioid addiction, you want to see if you can identify the following common signs of an opioid use disorder in them first. 

1. Unexplained hardship

Addiction is an expensive habit. Depending on the severity of opioid use, a heavy user’s monthly drug cost may add up to more than the average person’s total living expenses. 

It’s one thing if your loved one struggled to pay their water bill a few months ago; it’s another thing if their fridge seems to be always empty and their electricity hasn’t been turned on the last few times you’ve seen them. If they cannot explain or avoid addressing the obvious financial struggle, it may be a sign they’re hiding something.

2. Changes in social connections

When someone is suffering from a substance use disorder (opioids included), it almost always results in a social circle change. The more prominent your loved one’s usage is, the more they will spend less time in environments and around people that don’t use or don’t provide drugs, and the more they will gravitate to the people and places that do.

3. Drastic changes in mood, behavior or appearance

Addiction can completely rewire and alter the state and functionality of your brain. Under the influence of opioids, especially when frequently ingested, you would begin to notice your loved one just not seeming like themselves. They may appear strung out, “zoned out” or experience strangely euphoric or incoherent moments; the more they use, the more extreme the effects.

4. Drug-related paraphernalia

This can vary, depending on the type of opioid your family member or friend is using, but it might not always be obvious. For instance, the type of “equipment” used to smoke or inject heroin might not seem suspicious upon first look. Smokers can use aluminum foil, pipes (which can look like tobacco or marijuana pipes), spoons, cotton balls, bottle caps and even shoelaces.

Rather than jump to conclusions if or when you find one of these items, look around to see if another one is nearby, and also be sure to take into account your loved one’s behavior.

5. Severe withdrawal symptoms

Withdrawal symptoms can be the result of simply not having access to opioids for an extended amount of time or a genuine attempt to quit on their own, which can be dangerous to their health and life. 

Common withdrawal symptoms from opioids include:

  • Anxiety, restlessness or paranoia
  • Muscle aches and headaches
  • Inability to sleep, or chronically tired
  • Dilated pupils
  • Irritability or aggression

If your loved one attempted to quit on their own, seek medical attention immediately.

Get help today

If you suspect you or someone you love is struggling with a substance use disorder, don’t hesitate to reach out for help as soon as possible. Opioids are one of the leading causes of death in the United States, and when left untreated, their effects can be fatal.

We know this can be a scary and overwhelming time, which is why all you have to do right now is send us a confidential message here at October Road.

We specialize in providing high-quality, outpatient addiction treatment services that are designed to adapt to your individual needs, goals, and lifestyle. Your recovery is our top priority, and we are here to support you every step of the way.

To speak with one of our intake specialists directly, call us today at 888-201-5086.

Sad adult woman in the hallConnecting Substance Use and Domestic Violence
Asheville North Carolina Aerial view at sunsetAn Overview of Opioid Statistics in North Carolina