Signs of Opioid Addiction in a Loved One and How to Help

Are you concerned that a friend or relative could be struggling with drug addiction? It’s a common problem – in fact, more than 2 million Americans misuse prescription pain pills and heroin each year.

Fortunately, there are ways to know if your loved one is struggling with this disease, and steps you can take to help them. Here’s what you need to know.

Signs of Opioid Addiction

Opioids are very powerful drugs that impact the nervous system and create feelings of pleasure and pain relief. They are commonly prescribed for injuries and post-surgery pain management. Unfortunately, these prescriptions often become the beginning of an addiction problem.

How can you tell if someone you love is abusing opioids?

Physical Symptoms

Physically, opioid abuse causes a variety of noticeable symptoms. You might notice weight loss, drowsiness or changes in sleep habits, frequent flu-like symptoms, and unexplained marks on your loved ones’ arms and hands.

You might also notice that they stop taking care of themselves.  They may not dress as neatly as in the past.  They may also stop showering and washing their hair as often.   An addicted person may also have slurred speech and seem easily agitated.

If you notice these signs in someone you love, look into getting them help.

Behavioral Symptoms

Drug addiction has a strong impact on a person’s behavior. You might notice your loved one isolating themselves from you or other family and friends. Or, they may latch onto one or more people and constantly ask them for money.

Financial difficulties that don’t have a clear reason may come from drug addiction, as can recurring new financial issues. An addicted person may resort to stealing from family and friends and their workplace.

A person struggling with addiction may ignore responsibilities, have significant mood swings, be unmotivated, or appear anxious or depressed. They might become paranoid, talk very quickly or say things that don’t make sense, or lose interest in their previously favorite activities.

All of these symptoms indicate that something is wrong, and you might need to take action to help.

How to Help a Loved One Struggling With Addiction

If you do have a friend or family member affected by addiction, what can you do to help?

The primary goal is to get your loved one to admit they need help. This can be a challenge for those with addiction, since dependence on pain pills and heroin will be both physical and mental.

Often a confrontation or intervention without professional help is not useful. It can backfire, lead to arguments or physical confrontations. Instead, work with them to move toward choosing to get help.

It’s important to realize that your loved one can recover, but they are fighting a very difficult battle. It make take multiple attempts before they find the recovery strategy that works for them.

The goal is to become a part of the recovery process. You can provide critical information to health professionals about your loved one’s history, relationships, and habits. You can also be the one to do the leg work and find out about all available local resources to help with recovery. Often this first step of simply knowing where to start is the hardest. Just don’t ignore or deny your loved one’s struggle. Their life may depend on it.

People suffering from drug addiction may feel embarrassed and worry about the social consequences of seeking help. However, when they know that someone cares and will help them connect to the resources they need, the likelihood of recovery grows.

A Change of Environment

Often those who struggle with drug use need a change of environment in order to succeed. They may need a new job, new friend group, or to relocate to an entirely new area.

By supporting your friend or relative as they contemplate these significant changes, you can be part of the solution. Whether they need rides to treatment or help finding a new place to live or work, lending a hand can make a huge difference. The most important part is reassuring your loved one that you are there and will continue to be there.

With support, those with addiction can recover. By providing that support, you can help save their life.

About the Author

Paula Nicola, M.D.
Dr. Nicola is the Facility Director at Renu. She is a trained and board certified medical doctor with specialized training in addiction medicine.

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