How do you know if you have an opioid problem?

Anyone can develop an addiction to painkillers. Doctors, nurses and all healthcare professionals are tasked with monitoring patients to whom opioids are prescribed. We hear news stories about pill mills, billing fraud and monitoring programs to keep patients safe and prevent drug diversion and downstream black market sales. Meanwhile, who is monitoring the healthcare professionals up stream? It is too easy to imagine what an addict looks like or where they are getting their pain killers, sometimes it is harder to look right in the mirror.

People with abuse and addiction propensities may not be aware of the stronghold opioids can take on someone’s life. It is said that at stages of addiction the synapses are not firing the same and judgment can be impaired. The moment of realization of not being able to quit taking opioids can certainly be one of shock, fear and loss of control.

You might be able to stop for a day or more, maybe a week or two. Without getting proper detox and rehabilitative care, the cycle of use and addiction is not likely to stop on its own. Once people accept that they have no control over the addiction it can be easier to ask for help, especially when they can accept with the help of others that it is not their fault and it is a disease, from which they can be cured.

Not everyone who uses opioids safely and under a physician’s monitoring is or will become addicted. There are a few signs and symptoms of which to be aware.

Salem, Virginia’s Mount Regis Center for hope, treatment and recovery shares a list of symptoms of opioid addiction as follows, noting that not all individuals with addiction will display all the symptoms. That said, the following are common[i]:

“Mood symptoms:

  • Mood swings
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Euphoric mood for a few hours
  • Irritability

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Forging prescriptions for opiates
  • Stealing narcotics from friends and family
  • Robbing pharmacies and other medication dispensaries
  • Not fulfilling familial and other responsibilities
  • Decreased performance at job or school
  • Preoccupation with obtaining, using, and recovering from usage of opiates
  • Lying to others to cover the amount of drug taken
  • Withdrawing from once-pleasurable activities
  • Social isolation
  • Restlessness
  • Lethargy

Physical symptoms:

  • Exhaustion
  • Pain relief
  • Respiratory depression
  • Sedation
  • Muscle spasms
  • Vomiting
  • Insomnia
  • Constipation
  • Itching
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Sweating
  • Seizures
  • Coma
  • Death

Psychological symptoms:

  • Addiction
  • Memory problems
  • Hallucinations
  • Delusions
  • Paranoia
  • Worsening of mental health
  • Decrease in emotional well-being
  • Increase in symptoms of mental illness”

The article about opioid abuse and addiction is worth your review and covers co-occurring disorders, statistics, causes, symptoms and the effects of opioid withdrawal.

The more we learn and share about addiction, the more proactive we all may be in helping our family, friends and colleagues when we see someone may be in trouble and not know why.

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[i] Mount Regis Center website, Opiates – effects signs and symptoms