I have spoken with thousands of family members and significant others concerned that a person they love may be addicted to opiates. One of the questions I am constantly asked is "What are some warning signs of an opiate addict"? I am going to share with you some noticeable signs and behaviors of an opiate abuser. It's important that just because someone has some of these symptoms does NOT automatically mean they are an addict.
The first thing I ask the individual is why do they believe their loved one is abusing opiates? If you have reached out to me (a complete stranger), 9 times out of 10 there is an issue. ALWAYS trust your gut instinct when it comes to someone you know well. If over a period of time, you notice personality changes, this could be a sign.
First, has your significant other, or family member been prescribed pain medication at one time? Many times what may seem like a good medication to help someone in pain can turn into a nightmare. Opiates have been a blessing for many people who are suffering from pain. If your loved one was prescribed the medications at one point and are now healed (but you notice they are still using the medication) this may be a red flag. Are they getting their prescription refilled often? Are they doctor shopping? (Going to multiple doctors and pharmacies to get pain medication?) If you have access to their prescription bottles look at doctors name on the label as well as the pharmacy name. Are you noticing multiple doctors or pharmacies on the bottles?
The physical signs of an opiate addict vary from person to person, but there are some things to look out for. Have you noticed a weight change without any specific reason? Either losing a lot of weight or gaining? Any weight change should be noticed, especially if the person has not changed their lifestyle. I personally ate a lot of junk food, always had chewing tobacco in my mouth and I gained around 40 pounds. My skin was a pasty white and I didn't like to the leave the couch or house for that matter. I secluded myself from anyone I had a relationship with and hardly ever saw friends or family. Personal hygiene became the last concern on my list, which should be a warning sign. Is the persons work, job, or responsibilities suffering?
Besides looking completely vacant, opiate addicts pupils may become restricted. If you are in a dim room and notice their pupils are very small, they may be on opiates. Also abusers of opiates may tend to be sleepy quite often. If you see the person nodding off or taking excessive naps this could also be a sign.
Many addicts have extreme mood swings. If this is not the norm for the individual and you see that they are unable to handle stress, become abusive (verbally or physically), lack motivation, have a negative attitude about everything, and always come up with excuses for not doing activities, take notice. Are they hanging out with new people, or with a new social group that you think might not be a good influence?
For those who are married or in relationships. If you notice a libido change in your significant other, this is a dead giveaway. Opiates completely annihilate the sex drive in both men and women and should be noticed.
One of the most noticeable ways to tell if someone has an opiate problem is money trouble. If a person's spending habits suddenly shift. If they can no longer pay their bills, constantly asking to borrow money, or are looking to sell their possessions pay attention.
Are you missing valuable belongings? Jewelry is usually the first item to be pawned for cash by an addict. You may try to justify that the person would never steal from you. Opiates are a very strong drug, and their control over one's actions may be completely out of character for them. Don't write it off that you may have misplaced something as it's very possible that it was stolen and sold.
If you are reading this blog and thinking that the person you care for has some of these signs, it may be time to have a discussion with them.