Emotional Health

Quick Dose: What Are the Signs of Opioid Misuse?

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Americans consume 80 percent of the world’s total opioid supply. Opioids are most dangerous when they are not prescribed or closely monitored by your physician.

Addiction may start closer to home than you realize. One study shows 56 percent of teens find it easy to obtain prescription drugs within their own homes. Addiction can pave the way to stronger, more dangerous drugs, like synthetic fentanyl.

Signs of opioid addiction include:

  • Excessive mood swings. Opioids, which break down and bind to receptors in the brain, create feelings of euphoria and relaxation. As those feelings subside, someone abusing opioids may become agitated, nauseous or exhibit excessive exhaustion.
  • Withdrawal from normal routines. Some who abuse opioids may dramatically alter their routines. They no longer show interest in the same activities. They might also disconnect themselves from interaction with others or neglect their appearance.
  • Poor judgment. As addiction deepens, the person’s body becomes accustomed to the drugs, requiring increased dosages for the pleasurable effects. This can become costly, and the person may resort to lying or stealing to get money for more drugs.

Stigma around addiction continues to prevent individuals from seeking treatment. If someone you know is exhibiting signs of opioid addiction, address your concerns with compassion. Remember, help is available.

- Jonah J. Stulberg, MD, PhD, Northwestern Medical Group, General Surgery

- Bobbie Jean Sweitzer, MD, FACP, Northwestern Medical Group, Anesthesiology

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