Narcotic pain killers, also called opioids, are extremely effective for severe and chronic pain. People who once faced debilitating pain have been able to re-engage in their lives thanks to the relief made possible by opioids — when taken as prescribed.
That last phrase is critical, because most people who follow their doctor’s instructions can take opioids safely. But for those who take more than the prescribed dose — or take it longer than the prescribed duration — risk deadly serious addiction.
At CHOICE Pain & Rehabilitation Center, we specialize in safely and effectively treating pain and helping those who have abused painkillers overcome their dependence. Here, our team takes a closer look at the behaviors common to many opioid addicts, so you can get your loved one the help they need before it’s too late.
Is your loved one at risk for opioid addiction?
Not everyone who uses opioids becomes addicted to them. Studies show that about 33% of people who have been prescribed opioids for pain misuse the drug, and about 10% end up dependent on it. Certain risk factors can help you determine if your loved one has higher-than-normal chances of getting hooked on opioids. These risk factors include the following:
- A history of substance abuse
- High stress levels
- Family and social relationship problems
- Hangs out with drug abusers
- Takes risks
- Is a heavy smoker
- Has past legal troubles
- Struggles with anxiety or depression
- Is a teenager or in their early 20s
Technically, anyone who takes opioids is at risk for addiction, but the factors listed above may increase the likelihood that they’ll begin to abuse their prescription and/or try to obtain opioids illegally or switch to heroin.
Signs of opioid addiction in a loved one
The early signs of addiction may slip your notice, but if you have any reason to suspect addiction, we urge you not to ignore your instincts. Here are some of the telltale signs that your loved one may have an opioid problem:
- They take their opioid as a preventive measure
- They take their opioid more often than is recommended
- They have severe mood swings
- They seek new doctors to give them the same prescription
- They are inordinately concerned about their prescription supply
- They don’t sleep well
- They attempt to borrow medication from other people
- They claim to lose their prescription so they can get more
- They lose weight without trying
- They’re suddenly having financial problems
- They let their hygiene go
- They lose interest in sex
- They isolate themselves
- They have uncontrollable cravings
While admitting that your loved one has an opioid addiction can be scary as you think about the road ahead, ignoring it can be even worse due to the serious consequences of addiction.
What to do if your loved one is addicted to opioids
If you suspect addiction, it’s time to act. In general, it’s a good idea to talk with their doctor as soon as possible. Sometimes, the prescribing doctor can miss the signs if the patient is skilled at hiding the symptoms.
Direct confrontation can be tricky, but if you are sensitive and use words that show concern rather than judgement, you may spark a conversation that ends up saving their life. It’s also a good idea to have a plan in place. And that’s where we come in.
At CHOICE Pain & Rehabilitation Center, we offer comprehensive support for opioid addiction, and we’ve had great success with our medication-assisted treatment using suboxone. This medication is actually a combination of two distinct medications: buprenorphine and naloxone.
These drugs bind to the same receptors in the brain that opiates stimulate. However, instead of causing the intoxicating effect, suboxone blocks it. This reduces the brain’s craving for the original opioid and allows your loved one to gradually wean off their addiction with none of the negative side effects that usually come with the process.
Although it may seem counterintuitive to fight opioids with opioids, it’s important to understand that suboxone has a very different effect on the brain. Furthermore, it’s highly unlikely that it would cause a new addiction, because buprenorphine is a partial agonist, which creates an automatic “ceiling” of the drug’s effect.
The best reason to use suboxone as a treatment for opioid addiction is because it has been shown to reduce the risk of fatal overdoses by 50%.
Don’t ignore the chance to save your loved one from further suffering and possible death. Schedule a consultation for them with our caring team at CHOICE Pain & Rehabilitation Center to find out if they’re a good candidate for suboxone treatments. We have multiple locations throughout Maryland.