Some of the most commonly abused drugs in the United States are not illegal. They are prescription pain relievers that contain opioids. Opioids are powerful, addictive substances. Fentanyl, one of the strongest and most worrisome opioids, is still one of the most important types of pain relievers for those suffering from significant pain. While we cannot remove opioids from use, we can learn about them and how to spot signs of addiction.
If you believe that you or a loved one may have developed an addiction to prescription opioids, The Ranch at Dove Tree can help. Our West Texas team will listen to your story and work with you to come up with a treatment plan that addresses your specific needs.
How Many People Misuse Prescription Opioids?
If you are misusing prescription opioids, you are not alone. About 2.1 million people in the United States use and abuse opioids. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention note that most overdose deaths in the U.S. involve an opioid and these deaths have increased over time. From 1999 to 2021, nearly 280,000 people in the U.S. died from overdosing on prescription opioids.
What Prescription Pain Medications Are Abused?
Many opioid-based medications exist. Some of the most common include the following:
- Hydrocodone (sometimes mixed with acetaminophen and sold as Lortab or Vicodin)
- Codeine, a medication given for chronic and severe coughing
- Oxycodone, perhaps one of the most frequently discussed, often sold in the form of OxyContin, Percocet, Endocet, Percodan, and Roxicet
- Meperidine, often sold as Demerol
- Dilaudid, also known as hydromorphone
These drugs are highly regulated in terms of prescriptions. It is not uncommon for an individual to be given any of them in a hospital setting after a surgery, treatment, or injury. Those suffering from chronic pain may receive a prescription from their doctor as well. Sometimes, illegal access occurs when pills are sold on the street. In all situations, legal or illegal, these drugs are highly addictive and life-threatening when taken inappropriately.
What Does a Person High on Opioids Look Like?
Individuals intoxicated on opiates will likely display several signs. These differ based on the drug itself as well as on the amount ingested:
- Breathing slows.
- Pupils are constricted.
- Mood swings are common.
- A person is typically less social, removing themself from interpersonal situations.
- Sleepiness and difficulty staying awake are common.
- Nausea occurs, a feeling of being sick to the stomach. Vomiting is common.
- Many people struggle to remember things. They cannot concentrate on tasks.
- Depression and feelings of sadness are common.
- Movements are slow. Reactions are slow.
All of these symptoms create a situation of high risk. The heart rate slows, breathing slows, and the body can begin to simply stop functioning as it should.
What Changes in a Person’s Life When They Use Opioids?
Opioid misuse does not take long to start impacting a person’s life (and eventually the entire family’s life). When a prescription runs out, an addicted person may try switching doctors or buying the drugs illegally. Generally, some of the first signs of misuse of this drug can be seen as physical evidence, such as rolled up dollar bills or other papers, small mirrors, syringes, and pipes. These may indicate that the person has been crushing pills and snorting them, smoking them, or dissolving them in a liquid then injecting them. Look for any evidence of this paraphernalia.
Misuse can quickly progress into dire, life-changing situations. Users begin to spend their savings on drugs and supplies for them. They think about the drug often, often struggling to think of anything other than when their next dose is. Many people misusing opioids will neglect daily activities, employment, schooling, and social relationships. Some may be tempted to perform illegal activities in order to obtain enough money to buy more drugs. Physically, the appearance changes as well. The user may be less likely to groom themselves; they may become very thin from not providing nutrients to the body, and their eyes may become sunken in.
Remember, many people who are abusing opioids begin by simply taking the pills as prescribed; as the body adjusts to the opioid level, it requires more of the drug to ease pain. The user becomes dependent, and if they aren’t careful, this dependence can escalate into addiction. When a prescription runs out, the addicted person may begin “doctor shopping” to access more prescriptions—or resort to buying the drugs illegally from a dealer.
How Do You Know When Your Loved One Needs Professional Help?
Whether opioids are consuming your loved one’s daily life or they simply seem to be taking pills too frequently, you have reason to worry. Many people addicted to opioids can operate at a near-normal level from day-to-day, allowing them to maintain a small, comfortable high throughout the workday. However, most opioid use only worsens. Consider the following questions.
- Does your loved one talk about or seek out pain medications on a frequent basis?
- Is this person struggling financially, potentially due to drug use?
- Is the individual pulling away from social interactions and activities they once enjoyed?
- Is there evidence of neglect of the person’s own health or neglect of their children or home?
- Has an overdose occurred?
- Does the individual claim to be tired all of the time, perhaps even napping often?
- Do they struggle to remember things, concentrate on actions, or otherwise seem to be unmotivated to function?
These are all key signs of opioid addiction. Often starting with a simple pain prescription, this type of addiction tends to rapidly expand until it becomes all-consuming, impacting every facet of a person’s life. Soon, the addiction not only impacts the user’s life, but also their family, friends, and work relationships. Nothing is more important than the next pill.
If your loved one is struggling with addiction or you believe they may be, contact The Ranch at Dove Tree for immediate help.
Unfortunately, an addicted person cannot just stop the body’s demand for more opioids. Taking the pills away is not enough. A safe, medical detox is essential in this situation as it provides a foundation for successfully removing the chemical from the body so true recovery can begin.
At The Ranch at Dove Tree, we provide detoxification from opioids as well as short and long-term recovery treatment. To consult with our Lubbock, TX, team about drug and alcohol treatment, please contact us immediately.