How to Spot the Signs of Opioid Abuse and Addiction

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An estimated 2.7 million people in the United States live with opioid abuse or addiction and require treatment to overcome the condition.[1] Many addictions begin with a prescription for opioid pain relievers. After taking these medications for a period, some go on to form severe, devastating addictions to these drugs. Others may use opioids out of curiosity or self-medicate pain or emotional discomfort.

Opioid drugs, which include Percodan, Percocet, and OxyContin, may temporarily relieve moderate to severe pain. But opioid medications can also cause a euphoric or relaxing effect that users may continue to seek out. The additional effects of opioids can lead people to take more of the drug than prescribed or to take it more frequently. Without intervention and comprehensive treatment, people who abuse opioids may develop a life-threatening addiction to these drugs.

If you believe someone in your life is abusing opioids, you must learn the signs of opioid abuse and addiction to offer them the support and treatment they need to recover. Reach out to the New Jersey Addiction specialists for information about our opioid addiction treatment programs today.

Noticing the Signs of Opioid Abuse and Addiction

You may notice some physical and emotional changes in a person abusing opioids. Some of the drug’s side effects are noticeable to others. These include:

  • Constipation
  • Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Dry mouth
  • Dizziness
  • Itching
  • Difficulty staying awake
  • Confusion
  • Hallucinations

Opioid abuse can cause dangerous, sometimes life-threatening effects, such as respiratory depression. A person suffering from respiratory depression will have slow, shallow breathing.

When people take more of the medication than prescribed, the likelihood of dangerous or life-threatening overdose increases. Recreational use–using a drug without a prescription–is more likely to lead to an accidental overdose. It may also lead to someone mixing opioids and other drugs or alcohol, which can lead to serious medical complications.

If you recognize the signs of opioid abuse in your loved one, act quickly to get them the help they need. Going through treatment is often the only way to help avoid severe harm to their health and wellbeing.

5 Signs of Opioid Abuse

Anyone who abuses opioids can develop an addiction to the medications, regardless of other risk factors. It is essential to recognize the signs of addiction and know what treatment options are available so you can help your loved one seek the treatment they require.

Some common signs of opioid addiction or abuse include:

1. Their Priorities Change

When someone lives with opioid addiction, the drugs become the center of their universe. All other activities, hobbies, and relationships take a back seat to getting and using opioids. Even a person who was social and successful may isolate and lose interest in work or hobbies.

You may notice your loved one has stopped spending time with old friends. They may have quickly developed new relationships with people you don’t know. Often, people living with substance abuse or addiction will turn away from friends or family who are not using drugs and spend their time with people who are.

In some cases, you may notice this shift in priorities happening quickly. But in some, it may happen gradually over a longer period.

2. They Get Into Financial or Legal Trouble

Addiction is expensive and severely impairs a person’s judgment. Some people with opioid addiction spend hundreds of dollars a day to meet the addiction’s demands. They may lose weight because they spend their money on drugs, not groceries. Some lose their job, fall behind on rent, and drain any college or retirement savings they have.

Some resort to illegal activities to get the money to feed the addiction. People who have never been in trouble with the law may suddenly face serious legal problems.

Watch for sudden, unexplained financial trouble, reckless decisions about money, or legal trouble–these may be signs of opioid abuse.

3. Their Behavior or Mood Changes

People with an opioid addiction or those going through withdrawal from these drugs may develop a new, unpleasant personality. They may go through extreme, frequent mood swings that leave your head spinning. You may notice more frequent bouts of Irritability, aggression, or intense anxiety. They may be deceitful, isolative, or have unpredictable, erratic behavior.

Drastic changes in appearance, mood, or behavior may be one of the signs of opioid addiction.

4. They Fall Asleep at Inappropriate Times

People living with opioid abuse may appear drowsy or even fall asleep while doing other activities. People may nod off at work or during routine tasks, including driving.

This is because opioids work by suppressing the activity of the central nervous system (CNS).

It is unsafe for people with opiate addiction to drive or care for children because they may fall asleep or become too drowsy to maintain safety.

5. They “Doctor Shop”

Doctor shopping means seeking numerous prescriptions from multiple doctors. People who abuse opioids may have more than one prescription for opioid medications or frequently switch medical providers. Wanting more than one prescription is one of the clearest signs of opioid addiction and requires quick intervention.

If you recognize these signs of opioid addiction in someone in your life, you must offer the support and treatment they require to overcome addiction.

Get Help Now

While the nation is caught in the midst of an addiction epidemic, our addiction interventionists in Edison, New Jersey provide addiction interventions to Edison and surrounding areas. Addiction doesn’t discriminate, and many people who have a substance use disorder will deny having any problem with drugs or alcohol. However, friends and family are always the first ones to notice when a loved one needs to go to rehab. That’s where our New Jersey addiction interventions come in. We provide services to people who suffer from drug and alcohol addiction as well as their families.

If you or a loved one requires substance abuse treatment, reach out to the New Jersey Interventions specialists today.



Medically Reviewed: September 12, 2022

Dr Ashley

Medical Reviewer

Chief Editor


All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

Dr Ashley Murray obtained her MBBCh Cum Laude in 2016. She currently practices in the public domain in South Africa. She has an interest in medical writing and has a keen interest in evidence-based medicine.

All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

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