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Signs of Opioid Abuse

How can you tell if you or a loved one is struggling with opioid abuse?

Opioids are a class of drug that includes both prescription pain medicines and illegal drugs such as heroin. Though opioids can be prescribed by a doctor to treat pain, their misuse may lead to a dependency or addiction (what is known in medicine as an “opioid use disorder”). Anyone prescribed an opioid should follow their doctor’s orders carefully, making sure to only take the medication as prescribed.

Opioid use disorder is a medical condition defined by not being able to abstain from using opioids, and behaviors centered around opioid use that interfere with daily life. Being physically dependent on an opioid can occur when someone has an opioid use disorder, and is characterized by withdrawal symptoms such as cravings and sweating. However, people can misuse opioids and not have physical dependence. When a person has physical dependence, it can be particularly hard to stop taking opioids, and that dependence can interfere with daily routines, including personal relationships or finances.

Opioid use disorder may be diagnosed by a doctor. Someone struggling with opioid use disorder may not display symptoms right away. However, over time, there may be some signs that they need help.

Common Signs of Opioid Addiction

  • The inability to control opioid use
  • Uncontrollable cravings
  • Drowsiness
  • Changes in sleep habits
  • Weight loss
  • Frequent flu-like symptoms
  • Decreased libido
  • Lack of hygiene
  • Changes in exercise habits
  • Isolation from family or friends
  • Stealing from family, friends or businesses
  • New financial difficulties

Treatment for opioid use disorder is available from medical professionals. Medications such as methadone, buprenorphine or naltrexone paired with support programs can help people recover.