Opioid abuse has reached epidemic proportions in the past few years. The entire country has its eyes and minds focused on this problem.

How common is opioid abuse? The American Psychiatric Association recently published the results of a poll that showed that one in three people know someone struggling with opioid abuse. And the National Institute on Drug Abuse states that over two million Americans are battling opioid disorder.

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Wondering if someone you love is addicted to opioids? Look out for these signs of opioid disorder.

1. Taking Pills or Refilling Prescriptions Frequently 

Unfortunately, many people’s opioid use disorders start with a legitimate prescription from a doctor for a legitimate ailment. Doctors commonly prescribe opioids after surgeries, for chronic pain, and for serious injuries. 

Most people start out taking these pills as prescribed. But slowly, they start taking more pills than they need to deal with their pain. When they try to lessen the number of pills they’re taking, they find they can’t. 

Watch to see how your loved one is taking their pills after they’ve been prescribed. Are they following the directions on the bottle, or making excuses to take another pill before they should? Do they run out before they should be refiling the prescription? These are both strong signs that they aren’t taking the pills in a healthy way and that they may be developing an opioid disorder.

Trying to figure out how your loved one is taking their pills may prove difficult. People who aren’t taking their pills as prescribed will often hide how many pills they’re taking or how quickly they need a refill. 

2. Frequent Lying 

Hiding the way they take their pills is only one of many ways that people struggling with opioid disorder lie. Ever heard the phrase “you can tell an addict is lying because their lips are moving?” It’s a sad sentiment, but unfortunately, it’s often true.

Those suffering from substance abuse may lie in order to protect their disorder. They don’t want anyone to interfere with the way they’re using their pills or their drug of choice. So, they hide their drugs. They lie about where they’re going or what they’ve been doing. They say they don’t have a problem when they do.

And even worse, they’re often aggressively defensive when they lie. When asked about their use they get indignant and upset and lie to cover up their use.

If you feel like your loved one isn’t being honest with you or you’re frequently catching them in lies, it’s a sign they might have a problem with substance abuse.

3. Failing to Show Up for Responsibilities or Commitments

Substance abuse disorder can make people notoriously unreliable for a multitude of reasons. They will often skip out on commitments or responsibilities because they’re high and they forget or they’re embarrassed about showing up high. Or they can’t show up because they’re too sick from withdrawals. Or they’ll miss out on plans because they’re too busy trying to get drugs they need. 

They also have a habit of withdrawing from people who suspect they have a substance abuse problem or who are openly critical of their substance use. So, they may frequently miss or cancel plans with you because they don’t want to hear the hard truth from you.

If your loved one is frequently bailing on commitments or failing to show up for their responsibilities, it may be a sign that they’re struggling with an opioid disorder.

4. Extreme Mood Swings

Opioid abuse drastically impacts the way people think, feel, and behave. While someone is under the influence of an opioid their mood can range from easy going to despondent to depressed to irritable. When someone is coming down off of opioids, they are often aggressive, irritable, and depressed.

And even when they aren’t using their drug of choice their moods can be chaotic. Opioid abuse changes the way the brain manufactures and processes the neurotransmitters that regulate our moods. So, people with substance abuse problems often have trouble regulating their moods.

If your loved one experiences wild mood swings with little to no explanation for the change in behavior, it can be a sign that they’re abusing opioids. 

5. Lack of Interest in Activities They Love

Opioid disorder takes over the lives of the people struggling with this disease. When they become addicted to opioids, they change their lives to fit their disorder. This often means that they’ll give up activities they used to love.

The activities that used to bring them joy are replaced with getting and using their drug of choice. If the activity cannot be done while under the influence, they abandon it rather than trying to engage in it without using drugs. 

If your loved one has suddenly ditched their favorite pastimes without a logical explanation, it may be because they’re adjusting their life to accommodate a disorder.

6. Getting Too Much or Too Little Sleep

People who are abusing opioids often have lots of trouble with sleep. Many opioids make people sleepy when they’re first taken. So, getting an excessive amount of sleep can be the result of taking opioids.

But getting too little sleep is also a sign of opioid disorder. Many opioid users report problems with insomnia and frequent waking throughout the night.

This happens for a few reasons. One reason is that opioids interfere with the brain’s sleep processes. The opioids don’t allow the brain to get into a deep, restful state. Opioids also disrupt the brain’s wakefulness signals. So, the brains of people who are addicted to opiods tell them to wake up at inappropriate times.

Another reason is that they may start to experience withdrawal symptoms overnight. They sleep restlessly or wake up because they’re feeling sick. 

If your loved ones sleep patterns have changed drastically and they’re having lots of trouble sleeping, it may be a sign that they’re struggling with opioid disorder. 

7. Frequent Sickness

Withdrawal from opiates can manifest with flu-like symptoms. Withdrawal symptoms include nausea, headaches, vomiting, chills, and tremors. Severe withdrawal can trigger seizures and even be fatal.

If your loved one seems to be sick all the time but no one else around them is sick, it may be a sign that they’re dealing with opiate withdrawal.

What Should You Do if Your Loved One Shows Signs of Opioid disorder?

If your loved one is showing any of these signs of opioid disorder, you’re probably very concerned about their safety. You’re probably wondering what you can do to help them combat their disorder. 

You can start by being honest with them about your concerns. They aren’t likely to admit to their disorder immediately, but if they’re already in over their heads they may be open to talking about their disorder. 

The best thing you can do is to listen and to suggest that they seek treatment. For more information about our unique program for substance use disorder used by independent treatment providers, check out the Program Overview page of our site.