There are many potential warning signs of opiate addiction that friends and family members of an addict mistakenly overlook or fail to recognize. In some cases, recognizing the early warning signs of an addiction to opiates can help you find proper treatment early on and prevent the need for lifelong medications or extreme intervention methods in order to stop the dangerous addiction in its tracks. These are some of the most common, and often overlooked signs of opiate addiction that anyone who is taking opiates or who knows someone who is taking opiates should be on the lookout for.
1. Physical Appearance Changes
Various changes in physical appearance may occur when a user is becoming tolerant or addicted to opiates. Opiate dependence can lead to the user looking pale, sick, tired or otherwise unkempt. These are some of the very first signs of opiate addiction and the most commonly overlooked.
Opiates are known to cause weight gain, as opiate use often increases people’s preference for sugar, according to the US National Library of Medicine. Because of this preference for sweets, dental pathology, weight gain, and loss of glycemic control are often seen in opiate addicted individuals.
2. Lying about Opiate Use
Do you know someone who is using opiates and taking more than he or she is prescribed? Have you confronted him about the opiate abuse and been lied to? Frequent lies are a common sign of opiate addiction that can easily be overlooked simply due to an inability to confirm whether the user really is lying or not.
If you suspect that someone isn’t being truthful to you about their drug use there are certain things you can do. The Mayo Clinic advises trusting your gut instinct, educating yourself about what kind of drugs are on the market in that time and what their effects are, and getting help from a drug addiction treatment professional.
Opiate dependence can lead to addiction and denying the fact that too many opiates are being used or that there is a problem ensuing is not going to stop opiate addiction from setting in. Denial is one of the very first signs of opiate addiction and also the easiest to overlook.
Individuals who are becoming dependent upon or addicted to opiates may deny their use for a couple of reasons, according to the Child Welfare Information Gateway. On one hand they may simply conceal and deny the amount of drugs they are taking, or that they are using at all, as a means to keep worried loved ones at bay. On the other hand, though, individuals may deny their problem because they themselves are not fully aware of what their substance abuse is doing to them, and how big of a problem it may be. Denial is a very common facet of opiate addiction.
4. Stealing to Supply Habit
Opiate addiction can lead a user to do things that he or she would not otherwise do such as stealing from friends or family to feed their habit. Addicted individuals often feel like they have to steal in order to support their habit and keep opiate withdrawals at bay.
Opiate withdrawal occurs when an individual has developed a dependence on opiates. This can happen whether the drugs are being taken legally or illegally, and involves the need for more opiates than usual to get the same effect. When an opiate-dependent individual does not have the drugs their body depends on, they will begin feeling sick, anxious, will have trouble sleeping, and more. These opiate withdrawal symptoms, along with drug cravings, often lead people to steal to supply their habit.
5. Mood Swings
Opiate addiction can lead to mood swings that include almost bipolar-like instances. The user may be at the “top of the world” one minute feeling euphoric and good and then “in the gutter” the next minute feeling awful. Depression and extreme highs followed by extreme lows are common signs of opiate addiction.
Data gathered by the Department of the Interior shows that both while an individual is under the influence of opiates and while they are not they will likely display major mood swings. If this kind of behavior is not normal for your loved one and they display other opiate addiction signs, it could be time to seek help.
6. Trouble at Work or School
Many people who abuse opiates and become addicted will begin to slack off at work or school. There may be a loss of a job or failing grades in the early stages of opiate addiction. As the addiction progresses, the likelihood of holding a job or maintaining good grades continues to slip away.
An addiction to opiates makes it difficult for people to maintain the routine aspects of their lives as their priorities switch from these things to getting the next high. The connection between having trouble at work or school is very strong, and according to the National Alliance on Mental Health it is one of the factors that warrants a closer examination into possible opiate dependence for the individual in question.
7. Relationship Problems
One of the most common signs of opiate addiction is the relationship troubles that ensue as a result of the opiate abuse. You may notice that a loved one spends more time getting high and less time caring about his or her relationships with friends or family or you may notice that it seems like opiates are simply more important than priorities.
As the Australian Drug Foundation and others contend, another factor that leads to relationship problems for opiate addicts is that they often lie to and manipulate their loved ones, sometimes for money to pay for their habit. This creates tension on both sides, and often leads to serious family and relationship problems. It can be very difficult being the loved one of an opiate addict. One thing you can do for your loved one is to try and get them help, rather than dismiss or ignore their problem.
8. Deteriorating Mentally on a Wide Scale
Is your loved one no longer alert or aware of important matters? Do things seem oblivious to him or her or does it seem like he or she is in a constant haze? Opiate addiction can cause mental deterioration as the user becomes more dependent on thought processes associated with finding the next dose of opiates and getting high and less dependent on priority thoughts that really matter.
The deterioration in cognitive abilities of someone who is addicted to drugs is so strong, in fact, that the US National Library of Medicine describes addiction as a ‘disorder of altered cognition’. In addition to the dominance of drug-seeking behaviors over an individual’s thought process, the memory, attention, reasoning, and impulse control of drug addicted individuals are all likely to be impaired to some degree. Sometimes these changes are hard to detect in someone else, but can be recognized by the individual in question themself.
9. Lack of Hygiene
Just as physical appearance is a common sign of opiate addiction, a lack of hygiene is another one of the more common signs of opiate addiction that can be overlooked. You may chalk it up to your loved one feeling depressed or not feeling well—but really they are simply not caring for themselves because they are suffering a much deeper problem. They may not bathe regularly or they may decide to spend less time taking care of their body through diet, exercise or other means.
Due to the changes in their pattern of thinking, which focus on drug-seeking more and more, opiate addicts often lose sight of their personal hygiene. Lack of hygiene in opiate-addicted individuals can be dangerous, especially for intravenous drug users. The University of Arizona explains that infections and disease-spreading often occur due to poor hygiene and unclean needle preparation.
10. Living in Shambles
Did your loved one once care about his or her home and how it looked but now seemingly doesn’t care at all? Many opiate addicts will live in what the average individual could consider messy, inappropriate and essentially shambles. The home may be unkempt, the habits of the user are often inappropriate and morally or socially wrong and the way of living will just seem overall messy as the opiate addiction progresses and takes over the user’s life.
With medication-assisted opiate addiction treatment this has been shown to improve for addicts, and for their families. According to a study from the British Journal of Medical and Health Sciences, the quality of life for former opiate addicts improved with buprenorphine and naloxone treatment. Where previously individuals were living in terrible, unkempt and unhealthy conditions, treatment was able to help improve these conditions.