How to Spot Signs of Opioid Abuse in a Loved One

Did you know that 44 people die every day from an overdose of prescription drugs in the United States? According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the majority of deaths from drug overdoses involve an opioid.

Here’s what you need to know about the epidemic and how to protect your loved ones.

The Opioid Epidemic

Opioids are medications that treat pain. Examples of these medications include hydrocodone, oxycodone, morphine and codeine, though they’re commonly known by their brand names like Vicodin, Lortab, OxyContin or Percocet.

This class of drugs is known to be addictive. The chronic use of opioids can lead to physical dependence and overuse of these medications can affect the a person’s life, relationships, work and behavior.

Opioid abuse has become a serious problem in the U.S., and unfortunately, and according to Count It, Lock It, Drop It, a Tennessee-based program aimed at reducing overdose deaths, opioid abuse is the biggest public health crisis in Tennessee. In 2014, more people died from opioid overdoses than from car accidents.

Here’s four of the most common signs of opioid abuse.

  • Low Energy: If your loved one is abusing opioids, you may notice they have less energy than usual or are especially drowsy. You may notice the person looks tired or is not as interested in work or social activities.
  • Change in Appearance: Your loved one may look and/or act different when abusing opioids. Possible changes include pinpoint pupils, face or neck flushing, sudden itching, slurred speech, droopy eyes and frequent yawning. If you notice an unexplained change in your loved one’s appearance, look into it.
  • Decreased Concentration: Mental changes that can come with opioid abuse include difficulty concentrating and paying attention. A lack of focus can seriously interfere with a person’s everyday life and work.
  • Less Interest in Social Situations: A person abusing opioids might behave differently around other people. For example, they might be less interested in social activities than before or isolate themselves. They also might become secretive as a way to cover up their behavior.

Learn more about the state of opioid abuse in Tennessee.

What to Do Next

Of course, other factors can also cause these symptoms and behaviors, so even if your loved one exhibits one or more of these signs, it doesn’t automatically mean they have a problem with opioid use. But if you suspect a problem, the National Institute on Drug Abuse has recommendations on what to do.

Before talking to your loved one, consider calling the National Helpline of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration at 1-800-662-HELP (4357). This service provides 24-hour free and confidential treatment referral and information about mental and/or substance use disorders, prevention and recovery in English and Spanish.

Advice or recommendations are for informational or educational purposes only, not a substitute for a visit or consultation with your doctor.

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