Resources & Education

January 23rd, 2016

How to tell if someone you love is abusing Rx pain pills?

incidentIf you discovered that someone you knew or loved was abusing opiates, would you be surprised? You might think you’d know, but it happens quite often—many people report they had no clue their loved one had a problem.

Because it can be hard to tell, we are sharing a few red flags or signs to look for.

First, consider whether this person has ever gotten a legitimate prescription for a painkiller, such as hydrocodone (Vicodin or Lortab), oxycodone (OxyContin, Endocet, Percocet, Percodan, or Roxicet), morphine, codeine, Darvon, Dilaudid or Demerol. These substances are legitimate when used properly and for a limited amount of time, but addiction can set in if they are used for too long—or by someone who does not need them for pain.

Unlike alcoholics, people who are addicted to painkillers can hide it fairly well. They may be going about their normal lives—work, family life, church—then suddenly get arrested for filling a fake prescription or get arrested for driving under the influence (DUI). Start by paying attention to your loved one’s day-to-day habits and activities and see if you notice ongoing behaviors, such as:

  • Drowsiness. The person may start nodding off in the middle of a conversation or a meal. You may also notice they have constricted pupils.
  • Poor memory and concentration
  • Slowed breathing
  • Slow movement and reactions
  • Varying sleep habits. Sometimes, the addict’s sleep will run the gamut from excessive to insomnia (often brought on when they have run out of the drug).
  • Lack of attention to personal care, including lack of hygiene or attention to their appearance.
  • Frequent flu-like symptoms, like fever and headache—which probably aren’t the flu at all, but signs of withdrawal.
  • Weight loss
  • Lethargy
  • Reduced social interactions and loss of relationships
  • Mood swings
  • Apathy and depression

If this person is someone you are close to, you may notice items are missing—they may have been stolen and pawned or sold to get money to pay for more painkillers or even heroin (which is cheaper). You may see unexplained credit card charges or missing checks.

Trust your gut, even when it’s hard and easy to write off or make excuses. Someone who is in the throes of addiction may do his best to make you think what you see isn’t really happening. And remember, prescription drug addiction can happen to anyone. There is no such thing as a “typical” addict. Anyone who is using prescription painkillers beyond what their doctor has recommended has a problem and is at risk of overdosing.

If you suspect your loved one is addicted to prescription pain relievers, call our 24/7 HOPE line at (855) 969-HOPE. 

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