Opioids help many people manage pain after surgery or due to chronic diseases like cancer, but these drugs also have a dark side. Even when people use them as directed by their doctor, they can become addicted and start abusing their medications. Some evidence suggests up to a third of people who take opioid pain pills misuse them, and more than 10% develop a physical or psychological dependence over time.
If your family member’s moods or behavior have changed after taking pain pills, it could be an early warning sign of substance abuse. Since it’s possible to fatally overdose on opioids, knowing what to look for may save your loved one’s life.
What to Know About Pain Pill Addiction
Addiction is a complex brain disease with many interrelated genetic, psychological, and environmental factors. Thanks to the way opioids affect the brain’s pleasure and reward circuit, anyone who takes these drugs for any length of time can become addicted, regardless of age, beliefs, social status, or ethnic background. Still, you’ll want to be especially aware of these warning signs of pain pill addiction if you have a family history of substance abuse or other mental and behavioral health problems.
- Routinely using drugs in an “off-label” way, including taking higher-than-directed doses
- Unpredictable mood swings
- Taking drugs even when they are not in pain
- Changes in sleep patterns
- “Doctor shopping,” or visiting multiple prescribers in hopes of obtaining more drugs when their prescription expires
- Stealing medications from others
- Buying drugs illegally when they can no longer get a legitimate prescription
- Irresponsible decision-making that puts people in danger
The Dangers of Opioids
Drug companies initially marketed opioids as a safe, non-habit-forming pain relief method – a misleading claim that helped fuel the nationwide drug epidemic. Most states now limit the amount of opioids people can get from a doctor and the length of time they can legally use this medication. Unfortunately, abruptly quitting pain pills after someone has already built a tolerance can cause uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms, which is why your loved one might turn to illegal opioids like heroin.
Illicit drugs like these are far riskier than prescription opioids because they have unreliable dosages and may also involve fentanyl, a human-made opioid that is exponentially more potent than morphine. Depending on a person’s tolerance, body weight, and metabolism, as little as two grams of fentanyl can be enough to cause a drug overdose. Despite national efforts to curb the opioid epidemic, we still lose approximately 130 Americans to drug overdoses every day.
Providing Peace of Mind for Your Family
People who are addicted to opioids may initially be able to maintain a semblance of stability at work and home. However, a worsening addiction will eventually lead to severe problems across the board. Maintaining a pain pill habit can be expensive and time-consuming, and the dishonesty required to sustain an active addiction can undermine relationships and health.
A characteristic of substance abuse is being unable or unwilling to quit using pain pills, even when the drugs are causing problems that affect someone’s quality of life. If your family member is exhibiting any of the warning signs of addiction, an intervention may convince them to make a fresh start.
Interventions On Call’s trained interventionists provide on-demand, remote consultations for people whose loved ones have resisted treatment or refused to admit that they have a drug problem. We understand what it takes to overcome objections and convince people to accept help. Contact us today to guide you and your family to a successful resolution.