Opiate Addiction

7 Telltale Signs and Symptoms of Opiate Addiction

Nearly 2 million Americans suffer from opiate addiction. Unfortunately, 130 of those people die each day from an overdose. Many make the transition to using heroin in place of prescriptive opiates.

The line between relieving pain and abusing painkillers is thin.

These medications are highly addictive and far too easy to acquire. If you or someone you know takes opiates for pain, be very careful. It’s a slippery slope into addiction.

The signs of opiate addiction aren’t always obvious, like other drugs. Be aware of these signs and symptoms so you can get help sooner.

1. Frequent Doctor Visits

For many users, their first experience with opiates comes from their doctor. They might get prescribed opiates for pain, like after an injury. The intention is never to abuse the medication.

But, this is often how opiate addictions begin.

You might notice an opiate user making frequent doctor appointments. They could be trying to get back-up prescriptions under the guise of needing them for pain.

You might also notice them “doctor shopping.” Once one doctor catches on to their abuse, they get cut off. So, they approach another doctor and abuse their services until they, too, catch on.

In some cases, the user will steal or borrow opiates from other known patients. They could insist that they need to borrow one for pain and that they’ll replace it. Often, they simply steal a couple of pills without the person knowing.

When their sources for opiates run out, they hit the streets. Street opiates are very dangerous because they aren’t regulated and could contain other harmful chemicals. Or, they could transition to heroin, an illicit drug with similar effects to opiates.

2. Mood Swings

When someone is using opiates, their moods are unpredictable. The drug causes a euphoric high which can make everything in the user’s life feel idyllic. They could feel on top of the world.

But, as the high wears off, so does the good mood.

They could become irritable, depressed, or anxious. Many users report suffering from clinical depression, anxiety, and panic attacks.

You may think a loved one is suffering from mental health problems without knowing about their using. Unfortunately, mood disorders and mental health conditions are side effects of using opiates.

3. Increased Energy

Opiates tend to give the user excess energy. Someone who is usually lethargic from the pain suddenly feels well enough to walk or be more active.

Opiate abusers experience an increased heart rate, blood pressure, and level of alertness. They may seem to have endless energy and be very alert to their surroundings.

Some experience an increased sex drive. Their partners may notice the increase and attribute to a lack of chronic pain. While they aren’t in pain when taking opiates, they are still harming their body.

Look for changes in energy levels when your loved one gets prescribed opiates. There should be an ebb and flow as the recommended dose wears off. Consistent alertness could be a sign of abuse.

4. Engaging in Risky Behavior

Drug abuse in any form can affect your judgement. Someone abusing opiates might suffer from this lack of judgement and inhibitions.

Along with the spurts of energy, their decision-making becomes impulsive. You might notice them making big decisions in a second or failing to think things through fully.

Some people abusing opiates drive drunk, shoplift, and engage in other risky behaviors. They’re more likely to do something criminal while under the influence. This could also include violent and physical altercations.

5. Withdrawal from Normal Activities

Does your loved one love going to work during the week and volunteer on the weekends? Opiate addiction can make them forget about their hobbies and interests.

The things they normally enjoy take a backseat to their addiction.

This can include withdrawing from relationships and responsibilities. They might fail to pick up the kids from school or stop wanting to play with them. You could feel them disconnecting from their relationships.

This isn’t only an opiate addiction symptom. Unfortunately, most drug addictions can consume the user’s life. Their true passions and interests can’t compete with euphoric highs.

6. Irregular Sleep Patterns

As mentioned above, opiate addicts have excessive energy. This often means they have trouble falling asleep at night.

During the day, you might notice them suddenly getting tired and falling asleep. This could be at inappropriate times like eating lunch or while waiting at a red light.

In some cases, the user actually falls unconscious during these nap-like states. 

Irregular sleep patterns are a sign of something not being right in the body. It could be stress, sickness, or addiction. Combined with other symptoms, it’s a sure sign of drug use.

7. Withdrawal Symptoms

What happens when the user can’t access any pills? If they have no more refills from their doctor and can’t borrow from anyone.

Until they source more, you may notice them suffer some withdrawal symptoms.

These are physical, mental, and emotional side effects of the body not having opiates in its system. They might get irritable, angry, and stressed.

They could have nausea and start vomiting. Fatigue and anxiety are common, as well as excessive sweating. They might suffer from headaches and diarrhea.

Some people don’t realize they have an addiction until they’re without their painkillers. Withdrawal can be a shocking and scary experience. It’s crucial they contact their doctor and discuss their options for pain relief.

Want to Know More About Opiate Addiction Treatment?

If you or your loved one suffers from opiate addiction, it’s important to get help. Opiate abuse causes death every day in America. This isn’t a sickness you can overcome by yourself.

Look into a safe and credible rehabilitation program. The Discovery House offers drug detox and rehab programs with high success rates.

If opiate addiction is taking over your or your loved one’s life, contact us. We can help you stop using and adjust to a sober life.

About the Reviewer: Chris Barnes

Chris BarnesChristopher Barnes has worked in health care for over thirty years. He is a graduate of Alabama State University where he earned a double Bachelor of Science Degree in Social Work and Psychology in 1982. Christopher Barnes is currently the Director of Clinical services at The Discovery House where he has been employed for the past five years. Because of his extensive experience in health care & substance abuse he has an excellent rapport with constituents, clients, and other professional organizations in the counseling/social service community.