Warning: Don’t Ignore These Signs of Opioid Dependence

Oppressed man talking with psychologist

(DGIwire) — The road to opioid addiction is sometimes paved with good intentions. Maybe someone had a bad skiing accident and broke his leg. The surgery went well, but the surgeon suggests that the patient stay in the hospital for a little while, just so they can ensure proper healing.

However, the patient in constant pain, and the only thing that helps him fall asleep is pressing the morphine button. This is okay—the nurses told him to press the button when he’s in pain. That’s why it’s there. But when he gets out of the hospital, things take a turn.

The doctor sends the patient home with a painkiller prescription and clear instructions on how many times a day he should take the pill. The doctor also says that if the pain is unbearable, he can take an extra pill. The word “unbearable” means different things to different people, and when the patient is in the comfort of his own home, there’s no one to regulate his painkiller intake besides him. Suddenly, he finds himself running out of his prescription a few days early. Next time, it’s a week. We can see where this is going. He might have, through no fault of his own, developed dependence on opioids.

People of all ages, from all walks of life, can develop opioid dependency, and it often looks different in each person. InReach, a website and mobile app dedicated to helping people deal with opioid dependency, lists some universal warning signs to help determine if someone is on the fast track to dependency:

  1. Increasing opioid use over time to achieve the same effect.
  2. Feeling unwell if one has to go without the opioid.
  3. Personality changes and shifts in energy, mood and concentration.
  4. Avoiding family and friends.
  5. Continuing opioid use when pain relief is no longer needed.
  6. Spending large amounts of time planning, and sometimes travelling, to get more opioid, whether from doctors or dealers.
  7. Neglecting appearance, diet and personal hygiene.
  8. Calling in sick to work or school more than usual.
  9. Finding that senses and emotions are stronger and more stimulating than before.
  10. Forgetting events that have taken place and experiencing blackouts.

Battling addiction is very difficult, so it is important to recognize the symptoms. Then, if necessary, doctors can help patients by determining the appropriate treatments to support recovery.