Opioid Abuse & Addiction Signs

Millions of Americans have been affected by our country’s opioid crisis.1 Opioid abuse can impact anyone, regardless of their class, race, upbringing, professional successes, etc.2 The very person you may believe would never struggle with addiction may be suffering behind closed doors.

If you’re concerned about yourself or someone you care about, you may be unsure of how to tell if a problem exists. Here we’ll give you some of the signs to look out for, as well as the criteria treatment professionals use to diagnose an opioid use disorder.

What are the Signs of Opioid Abuse?

Woman with hands on face

There are a number of behavioral and physical indicators that someone may be developing an opioid addiction, though some of these may just be the side effects of therapeutic use of prescription opioids.

Some signs of opioid abuse include:3,4

  • Appearing unusually slow or tired.
  • Legal troubles related to opioid use, e.g., arrests for DUI/DWI.
  • Risky behaviors, such as unsafe sex.
  • Pinpoint (tiny) pupils.
  • Different eating or sleeping patterns.
  • Poor physical hygiene.
  • Impaired coordination, e.g., walking into things or falling down.
  • Poor attendance at work or school.
  • Increased secretiveness or lying.
  • Noticeable changes in friend groups, social circles, and hobbies.
  • Mood or personality changes (e.g., having angry outbursts, seeming anxious or paranoid with no reason, or appearing spaced out).

For those holding opioid prescriptions, the following signs may indicate they are misusing their medications:3

  • Seeking extra medication such as by falsely reporting lost or stolen prescriptions, calling multiple doctors (“doctor shopping”), or asking friends to obtain prescriptions or give them their unused medications.
  • Repeatedly requesting early refills.
  • Complaining of increased pain even though their health problem doesn’t appear to be worsening.
  • Acting resistant to suggestions of alternative treatments for pain.

What are the Criteria for Opioid Addiction?

Opioid use disorder is a diagnostic term used by health professionals to describe what is commonly referred to as opioid addiction.5

There are varying degrees of severity of an OUD. Meeting 2 or more of the following criteria indicates the presence of an opioid use disorder, and the more criteria a person meets, the more severe their OUD:5

  • Taking opioids more often or in greater doses than intended.
  • Wanting but failing to cut down or stop using opioids.
  • Spending a lot of time trying to obtain opioids, using opioids, and recovering from using them.
  • Craving, or having a strong desire to use opioids.
  • Failing to meet obligations at work, school, or home because of opioid use.
  • Continuing to use opioids despite having social or relationship problems likely relating to opioid use.
  • Giving up or cutting back time spent on important social, occupational, or recreational activities in order to use opioids.
  • Using opioids in situations where doing so can result in serious injury (such as driving or operating machinery).
  • Continuing to use opioids despite understanding that they are causing or exacerbating physical or psychological problems.
  • Having to take opioids in greater amounts or more frequently to achieve the effects you’re used to (tolerance).
  • Experiencing opioid withdrawal symptoms, such as sweating, chills, or nausea, when trying to stop using.

Why Should you Seek Professional Help for Opioid Abuse?

Opioid abuse and addiction can easily upend your life. Not seeking help for opioid abuse leaves you vulnerable to many serious risks, such as:

  • Overdose, which can cause permanent brain damage or death.7
  • Opioid-related medical problems including severe constipation, fractures, fertility and prenatal issues, and infectious diseases.8-10
  • Long-term psychological problems, which include not only addiction but may also include depression, anxiety disorders, and suicidal thoughts.11 Mental health symptoms that existed prior to the initiation of opioids may worsen over time as use continues.12
  • Financial troubles from overspending on opioids and/or losing employment.11
  • Relationship difficulties, such as divorce or family estrangement.11

Taking the First Step Toward Recovery

Road with Start on it

Once you’ve identified that you or someone you love needs help, it is time to look into treatment options. The treatment plan for recovery from opioid addiction can look different for each person. It may involve inpatient rehab, outpatient therapy, medications to help aid in recovery (e.g., methadone or Suboxone), 12-step groups, or a combination of all of these.14

You don’t have to navigate the path to recovery alone. We’re here to help you begin planning. Call us at any time at .

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AdCare has multiple locations throughout Massachusetts and Rhode Island, making it easily accessible to most parts of New England. We offer an integrated system of care and have been helping individuals and families struggling with addiction for 45 years. Take the next step toward recovery: learn more about our addiction treatment programs in MA and RI or learn about how rehab is affordable for everyone.