11 Signs It’s Time to Seek Help for Opioid Addiction

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Who Answers?

When does drug use become drug abuse?

What does it look like to cross the line from medication to dependency?

How can you tell if you or a loved one needs help with opioid addiction?

How about we take the guesswork out of it?

Mental health professionals look to the DSM-5 for guidance, and we can too. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th edition) is the ultimate guide for professionals to diagnose mental health disorders. This tool, published by the American Psychological Association (APA), includes over 150 mental disorders, and explains the symptoms, risk factors, and criteria for each.

One of these disorders is opioid use disorder (OUD).

Based on the following 11 symptoms, OUD is diagnosed as mild (2-3 symptoms), moderate (4-5 symptoms) or severe (6 or more symptoms). Watch for two or more of these red flags to know if it’s time for you or a loved one to seek help with opioid addiction.

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Recognize These Red Flags for Opioid Addiction?

  • Warning sign: Opioids are taken in larger amounts or over a longer period of time than intended.

Steve injured his knee playing football last year. His injury has healed, but he continues to take painkillers “just in case.”

  • Warning sign: Multiple attempts have been made to stop taking opioids but with no success in reducing, controlling, or stopping use.

Rachel swore she was done with the painkillers. She threw the rest of them away, and resolved to get through the rest of the week without taking another one.

That was last month. Since then, she’s gotten more and has continued to take them every day. She just can’t seem to make it through the day without “a little help.”

  • Warning sign: An excessive amount of time is spent obtaining, using, and recovering from the effects of opioids.

Jimmy doesn’t seem to have time for much anymore. He takes fewer shifts at work because he’s often too high or dope sick to work. He spends most of his nights searching online for opioids and arranging his next purchase. It’s like he’s devoting more time to the drugs than the people in his life.

  • Warning sign: Cravings to use opioids are persistent.

It’s like hunger or thirst. From the moment I wake up, my body is aching for another hit. And once I use, it doesn’t stop. I start craving more right away.

  • Warning sign: Opioid use makes it difficult or impossible to fulfill obligations at home, school, or work.

Natalie used to be the one everyone could count on. But now, she shows up late to work, and she often takes long breaks. She forgets appointments. Her house is a wreck. And she gave up entirely on the class she was taking. All because she’s hooked on prescription pain medication.

  • Warning sign: Continued use even though the behavior causes clear social or interpersonal problems.

Bob’s boss threatened to fire him if he ever showed up to work high on drugs again. His girlfriend broke up with him because his drug use ruined their relationship. And his ex-wife threated to take away visitations with their son. But none of that changed Bob’s habits – he had no plans to stop using heroin.

  • Warning sign: Participation in social, occupational, or recreational activities stops.

Sue used to be involved in a lot of things, but she didn’t seem interested anymore. She volunteered each month at the food pantry. She went out to dinner with friends on the weekends. She went to classes at the gym. Now, all of that has stopped. She just wants to stay home.

  • Warning sign: Using opioids in situations that may not be safe.

No, I don’t know for sure what’s in the drugs I take at parties, but that’s ok. I’ll risk it. I bought some pills the other day from some guy online, and they turned out fine. What’s the big deal?

  • Warning sign: Continued use of opioids even though it negatively affects mental or physical health.

Dave woke up in unfamiliar surroundings. He could tell he was in a hospital, but he didn’t know why?

His mom quickly came to his bedside and answered his questions. Apparently, he had overdosed last night.

“Well then,” he thought to himself, “I’ll have to be more careful next time with the number of pills I take.”

  •  Warning sign: A level of tolerance is present to achieve the effects of opioids.

I remember when one pill sent me flying. Now, I have to take several to get that same feeling. It’s getting pretty expensive to keep this up.

  • Warning sign: Withdrawal symptoms are experienced when opioid use stops.

Kevin seemed anxious. He was sweating, and he couldn’t sit still. When I asked him what was wrong, he quickly said he was fine. But he seemed nauseated, and his eyes didn’t look right, either. He explained that he had run out of medicine and just needed to get a refill – then he would feel better.

Don’t wait Until It’s Too Late.

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Recognizing It’s Time to Seek Help for Opioid Use Disorder

Opioid addiction is challenging, but remember that effective treatment options exist. If you (or a loved one) are currently using opioids, knowing how to recognize the signs can be life-saving. Don’t wait for OUD to worsen. Help is available now.

If you or someone you love is experiencing a substance use disorder, help is available. Call 800-407-7195(Who Answers?) today to speak with a treatment specialist.

the Take-Away

When does drug use become drug abuse? What does it look like to cross the line from medication to dependency? How can you tell if you or a loved one needs help with opioid addiction? How about we take the guesswork out of it? Mental health professionals look to the DSM-5 for guidance, and we …