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Early Warning Signs Of Opioid Use Disorder

Is someone you love struggling with an opioid use disorder? Or are you worried that they may be misusing their opioid medications? Sometimes people show warning signs when they are misusing drugs. Sometimes, however, it goes unnoticed until it begins to cause noticeable problems in a person’s life, relationships or career. Addiction can be tricky to spot in its early stages.

Some changes may be subtle when a person is misusing opioids. For example, they may spend more time alone, seem quieter than usual, or “spaced out.” Maybe they seem on edge early in the day but wholly relaxed or even spacy later in the day.

Sometimes a family member may feel like something is “wrong” or off. If the person you are worried about has been taking prescription opioids, there is a chance that they may be misusing them. About 15% of the population misuses opioid medications, but not all of them become physically addicted. About 19% of people prescribed opioids end up with an opioid use disorder.

Opioid Use Disorder Risk Factors

Not everyone who gets opioids prescribed will misuse them. There are many other factors at play that can make a person more vulnerable to opioid misuse.

  • People who are pain patients with uncontrolled pain will self-medicate with higher doses, which can cause problems with their treatment.
  • Younger people ages 12-20 who are exposed to opioids early, including those who get their wisdom teeth removed.
  • People who experience poverty, homelessness, or physical abuse.
  • People who grew up in a house with a substance abuser.
  • People who have trouble with intimate friendships or family relationships.
  • People who have struggled with using other substances recreationally.
  • People who live in a household where there is drug use.
  • People who also live with mental health disorders such as anxiety or PTSD.
  • People who are also addicted to nicotine.

Many people are at-risk for substance use disorder but may not realize it. If you have one of the risk factors above, you may want to avoid taking opioids.

Why Do People Misuse Opioids?

People who take their prescription medication as prescribed rarely end up with an opioid use disorder. However, many people misuse their medication when they discover a beneficial side effect such as euphoria.

People who have trouble controlling their chronic pain also misuse opioids. Many pain clinics now work toward the goal of having pain patients use other medications like nerve blockers to help prevent pain.

People don’t become addicted to opioids overnight. Many start misusing drugs and increase the dosage slowly as their body adapts and grows a tolerance to the drug. Sadly, this means they need to take even more of the drug to get the same effect, even when the product is simply numbing physical pain. Long-term opioid use makes the medication less effective for its intended purpose and puts you at risk of an overdose.

Early Warning Signs Of Opioid Use Disorder

There are several warning signs of opioid use disorder that you may want to watch out for if your loved one takes opioids. These include:

  • Hoarding pills or dividing pills or having multiple prescriptions for the same opioids.
  • Leaving pills in baggies or crushed tablets.
  • Seemingly intoxicated even when they have taken their dose.
  • Drinking or taking other recreational drugs with pills.
  • Becoming more withdrawn or less interested in outside activities.
  • Borrowing medication or “losing” medication and getting a fresh refill.
  • Taking opioids even when not in pain.
  • Seeking opioid medication online or through illicit means.

Talking to your loved ones about your concerns may help them to see that they are running head-first toward a problem. Therapy and talking to a doctor to help wean or withdraw can help a person misusing medication or opioids.

Let your loved one know that you care and you’re worried. You cannot force them to get help, but you CAN keep a few phone numbers on standby for therapists or treatment programs.

Getting Help For Opioid Use Disorder

If you or your loved one needs help recovering from opioid use disorder, we’re here to help you. Reclaim your life, restore your health, and get on the path to recovery in a serene, safe, private environment. Call us at US (949) 279-1376 • MX (612) 153-5726 to learn how we can help you get started.







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Hi! I’m Melissa Stailey, a freelance writer that loves to cook. I live and work in Washington, DC.