It’s hard to find anyone in the United States whose life hasn't been affected by the opioid epidemic in one way or another.
Despite its prevalence, many people aren’t familiar with how opioid addiction or abuse impacts those it touches. If you suspect someone you love is suffering from an opioid dependency, Las Encinas Hospital is here to answer every question you might have.
These are some of the most common questions we see about opioid abuse, symptoms of withdrawal and overdose, and recovery. If you don’t see your question here, feel free to contact us any time to speak to our friendly staff or discuss treatment for opioid addiction.
Who is at risk for opioid abuse?
Opioid abuse and addiction can strike people of every age, race, background, and ethnicity.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), at least 115 people in the United States died every day from opioid overdose. That’s the equivalent of one death every 12.5 minutes.
Unlike other drugs, opioids are readily available from doctors which means addiction can hit anyone including college students, stay-at-home moms, grandparents.
What are the risk factors for opioid addiction?
Some people face a greater risk for opioid abuse than others. The risk factors tend to include:
- A family history of substance abuse disorder (including alcohol)
- A personal history of substance abuse disorder (including alcohol)
- Taking opioids or opioid-derived medications for pain following a hospital stay or surgery
- A personal history of mental illness such as depression or anxiety
- Heavy tobacco use
- Poor mental coping mechanisms
- Stressful life circumstances
- Risk-taking or impulsive behavior
- A personal history of chronic pain
What are the symptoms of opioid abuse or addiction?
If you suspect a loved one might be struggling with an addiction, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the symptoms of opioid abuse:
- Frequent drowsiness aka. “nodding out”
- Negative mental health changes like irritability or anger outbursts
- Constricted pupils
- Isolating from family and friends
- Poor attention and memory
- Visiting different doctors or pharmacies to fill their pain medications
How can I tell if a loved one is overdosing on opioids?
This is an emergency. If you suspect someone is overdosing on opioids, call 911 and let the operator know you need medical attention for a suspected opioid overdose.
Symptoms of an opioid overdose include:
- Inability to talk despite appearing awake
- Pale, blue, purple, or gray skin tones
- Choking or gargling sounds similar to snoring (try to wake them up)
- Limp muscles and extremities
- Unusually high or low heart rate (or no heart rate)
How can I tell if a loved one is experiencing opioid withdrawals?
Extended opioid withdrawals are extremely painful, but the symptoms may be very subtle in between doses. Look out for:
Digestive distress: abdominal pain, diarrhea, constipation, vomiting
Rapid heartbeat and dilated pupils
- Feeling cold
- Watery eyes
- Trouble sleeping
- Profuse sweating
- Intense anxiety
- Flu-like symptoms such as a runny nose
Other symptoms during prolonged opioid withdrawals can become dangerous if left untreated, such as dehydration and seizures. A safe medical detox with oversight from doctors can mitigate the risks.
What should I do if I suspect a loved one is addicted to opioids?
The first step is to offer support and reassurance. Remember that addiction is a disease, and no one wants to feel worthless or guilty. Chances are, they have already beat themselves up enough inside.
Next, encourage your friend or family member to seek help. If they’re an adult and refuse help, you’ll need to set boundaries to avoid co-dependency. Continue to set a good example and remain optimistic while remembering that you cannot control their actions.
Do people use opioids to self-medicate underlying mental health issues?
It’s very common for people to self-medicate underlying mental health issues with opioids or other drugs. It’s also common to substitute opioids for other available substances like alcohol, marijuana, or other prescriptions like Adderall when opioids are unavailable.
In these cases, a treatment program should focus on managing underlying mental health conditions while helping the patient recover from their substance abuse.
What kind of treatment is available for people suffering from opioid addiction?
It depends on the person’s stage of chemical dependence. Sufferers who have caught their dependence at an early stage can benefit from intensive outpatient treatment and comprehensive therapy.
In severe cases, inpatient treatment for opioid addiction should be customized based on the individual’s personal mental health struggle and addiction factors. In some cases, a medical detox might be necessary to jump start a safe recovery.
Don’t Suffer Alone, Help is Available in Pasadena
Las Encinas Hospital in Pasadena provides personalized treatment for opioid addiction and other chemical dependency issues.