6 signs someone may have an opioid addiction, and how to help

opioid addiction

In 2017, an estimated 2.1 million Americans battled an addiction to opioids, the class of drugs that includes prescription painkillers, heroin, and fentanyl.

And opioid addiction — or opioid use disorder, as it’s known to doctors — is a disease that can kill. Opioid-related deaths have surged in recent years, and today, an average of 115 Americans die every day because of opioid overdose, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

But by learning to recognize the signs of an opioid use disorder, you may be able to help a person fighting addiction get treatment — and get better. 

“It can take a few years for it to go from when people start misusing opioids to when people really develop the addiction, so along the way there are a few signs and symptoms that family members can be on the lookout for,” addiction expert Dr. Yngvild Olsen, medical director at REACH Health Services in Baltimore and a distinguished fellow of the American Society of Addiction Medicine, told INSIDER. 

“I don’t think anyone expects family members to be the experts in making the diagnosis, but family members are the ones who very often will notice that something is not right,” she added. “And when it’s your loved one, you want to really make sure that person is going to get the help they need.”

INSIDER spoke with Olsen to learn more about the potential signs of opioid use disorder. Here are six signs to watch for — and what to do if you notice them. 

SEE ALSO: 16 sober before-and-after photos from real people who fought addiction — and won

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1. Major changes in behavior

Olsen said major shifts in someone’s behavior may be one signal of addiction. 

“Let’s say somebody is typically pretty outgoing, seems happy, and then all of a sudden they start getting really irritable and will end up spending a lot of time in their room … That’s a biggie to look out for,” she said.

Read more: Recovering heroin addict explains why it’s so hard to stay clean — even in rehab

She added that self-imposed isolation — for instance, staying out of the house for long stretches and doing everything possible to avoid interaction with family members — is another potentially troubling behavior change. 


2. Not meeting obligations

“If someone is missing school or work, or they were once an A student and now they’re barely getting by — those are some warning signs,” Olsen said. 


3. The presence of certain objects, like needles and bottle caps

Drug paraphernalia, unsurprisingly, can be one major indicator of addiction.  

When it comes to opioids specifically, Olsen said loved ones may find objects like tin foil, needles, matches, and charred spoons or bottle caps. (The latter two can be used for cooking drugs.)


See the rest of the story at INSIDER