Opioid Addiction

When used appropriately, the powerful class of opioid medications can give patients their lives back, allowing them to be active again and freeing them from a life spent nearly bedbound.

But like so many legitimately prescribed medications, opioids do carry a high risk of addiction, and it is important for these patients, and their loved ones, to be careful.


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Some of the early signs of opioid addiction can be subtle and easy to miss, so it is important for loved ones and patients to keep their eyes and ears open. Watching for early behavioral changes can be especially helpful, and here are nine signs to watch out for.

  1. Running out of medication – Most doctors these days are all too familiar with the addictive potential of the powerful pain medications they prescribe, and responsible prescribers carefully limit the number of pills or patches they provide. If your loved one is running out of medication too quickly, that could be the first sign of trouble.
  1. Visiting multiple doctors – Going to many different doctors for the same complaint, something known as doctor shopping, is a big red flag, and a sign that loved ones should never ignore.
  1. Lying about their use – When an opioid addiction begins to set in, the patient may try to minimize what they are doing, including lying about how many pills they are taking or how many drug-filled patches they are going through.
  1. Crushing or grinding tablets – Opioids in pill form are designed to be released slowly, but addicts often resort to crushing or grinding to get a more direct rush. If you see a pill crusher or fine powder lying around, it is time to start asking questions.
  1. Rebound pain – It is a cruel irony of chronic opioid use that consuming too much medication actually activates new pain receptors in the brain. For those taking opioids but receiving less and less relief, it is important to talk to their doctor.
  1. Opening pain relief patches – Like opioids in pill form, pain relief patches containing fentanyl and other powerful medications are designed to be slow release. If you notice unexplained holes or tears in the used patches, your loved one could be developing an addiction.
  1. Mood swings – Opioid addicts go through a lot of physical pain, but they also endure enormous amounts of psychological and emotional trauma. Frequent mood swings are common behavioral consequences of opioid use and addiction, and something loved ones should never ignore.
  1. Signs of withdrawal – No matter what form they take, opioid medications take a powerful hold on the body, and the sudden absence of those drugs could trigger dangerous withdrawal symptoms. If you notice things like nausea, vomiting, fever chills, and agitation, it is time to take action.
  1. Denial – It is not easy for opioid users to admit that they have a problem, and they may stay in denial even as their legal supply of drugs runs out and they turn to alternate sources on the street. If your loved one is on opioids and in denial, it is important to step in as soon as possible.

Even if you only suspect that someone in your life has been abusing their opioid medications, it is important to talk to them and offer help in getting clean. Many people mistakenly think that prescription drugs cannot be addictive and that using these powerful drugs to treat pain is totally safe.

Unfortunately, none of these things are true, and legally prescribed medications can, and do, trigger addictions. In extreme cases, the overuse and abuse of these powerful painkillers could even be deadly, so it is important for loved ones to act as quickly as possible in the face of these dangers.