Opioids are among the most addictive substances in existence. Opioid use disorder has become a national crisis in the U.S. More than 2 million Americans abuse opioids, with more than 90 Americans dying daily from an opioid overdose.
Given this epidemic, it’s essential to recognize the signs of opioid misuse so that you can get help for yourself or a loved one.
What are Opioids?
Opioids include prescription medicines used to treat pain and illegal drugs such as heroin. They are known to slow respiration and heart rate, and they also promote a sense of euphoria. Because of the sense of ecstasy they produce, opioids can lead people to abuse.
Common opioids include:
- Oxycodone (OxyContin®)
- Hydrocodone (Vicodin®)
Why Are Opioids Addictive?
Opioids can make your brain and body believe they are necessary for survival. Misusing an opioid over time increases your risk of forming a dependency, requiring more frequent and stronger doses. This dependency may cause you to experience withdrawal symptoms if you fail to get enough of the drug. Feeling the need for the drug and trying to avoid withdrawal is how occasional use leads to addiction.
If a doctor prescribes you an opioid, follow their orders carefully. Only take the medication as needed. Discontinue use as soon as possible. It also may be a good idea to discard the unused drug.
Opioid use disorder is not being able to abstain from using opioids. When you have an addiction, the behaviors centered around that use interfere with daily life. It’s common to be physically dependent on an opioid when you have an opioid use disorder. But it is possible to misuse opioids without physical dependence. When you have a physical dependence, you get withdrawal symptoms such as cravings and sweating, making it particularly difficult to stop taking the drug.
7 Signs of Opioid Abuse
Because doctors prescribe opioids for legitimate reasons, just having the drug doesn’t indicate abuse. Like many addictions, opioid addiction may be difficult to spot, especially since the person using the drug likely will hide it.
1. Inability to Control Opioid Use
An inability to stop taking opioids is a sign of addiction. You may find yourself taking opioids in more significant amounts or for longer than intended. You may even try to stop taking the drugs but find you’re unable to do so.
2. Avoidant Behavior
Avoidance is often the denial that there is an issue. As with any substance, those addicted are often in denial about abusing opioids. There is a social stigma attached to substance use that makes admitting addiction incredibly difficult. Also, when you misuse opioids, you spend a lot of time obtaining the drug, using it, and recovering from its effects.
Taking opioids leads to chemical changes that impact your circadian rhythm, the biological clock responsible for your sleep-wake cycle. Opioid use results in poor sleep quality, with less restorative and rapid eye movement during slumber. Withdrawal also makes sleep exceptionally difficult.
4. Weight Loss
Opioids lower your metabolism. If you’re addicted to opioids, you won’t have much of an appetite. It’s a sign of opioid use when you have significant changes in your diet, including skipping meals. Lack of nourishment leads to rapid weight loss and may also cause hair loss.
5. Financial Stress
Feeding an opioid addiction isn’t cheap. Once you no longer have prescription access to opioids, it’s not uncommon to turn to illegal drugs. It’s typical for people with opioid addiction to withdraw large amounts of cash from their bank accounts. Unfortunately, they may even steal or sell prized possessions to obtain the money for their next opioid purchase.
6. Dramatic Mood Swings
Opioids cause a chemical change in your brain, which impacts the balance of neurotransmitters. These are responsible for mood, motivation, and reward. It’s a sign of opioid abuse when you experience rapid mood swings, going from positive and highly motivated to depression.
7. Unexplained Flu-Like Symptoms
People addicted to opioids often exhibit chronic flu-like symptoms when they go into withdrawal. Opioid withdrawal causes fever, headache, and a runny nose. Sneezing, coughing, vomiting, and diarrhea are also common signs.
Opioid Treatment at Integrative Life Center
You need help from a mental health professional to overcome opioid use disorder. It’s not enough to have a medically supervised detox to address the drug’s physical effects. You also need to address underlying issues with counselors. At Integrative Life Center, we understand that addiction often results from unresolved trauma. We partner with you to discover the cause of your addiction and treat it, then your symptoms.
We use a wide range of evidence-based treatment programs for opioid addiction, including:
- Dialectical behavior therapy
- Motivational interviewing
- Trauma-informed therapy
- EMDR therapy
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy
Are you ready to make progress toward lasting sobriety and recovery from opioid addiction? Contact Integrative Life Center today if you or your loved one needs help.