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How to Spot the Signs of Opioid Addiction in Loved Ones

woman sitting on a couch talking to another woman who is upset. The image represents someone talking to their loved one about opioid addiction.

 Knowing how to spot the signs of opioid addiction in loved ones, such as changes in behavior and physical appearance, can help you intervene and support their recovery journey.

Spotting the Signs of Opioid Addiction in Loved Ones

There are so many signs and symptoms of potential opioid addiction that it can be daunting to track them all. While we can list the most common signs, remember that the most critical indicator of a potential problem is a change to the core of their personality. Early detection can make all the difference. If your loved one seems different, trust your gut, and talk to them about addiction. 

Other signs of opioid addiction include:

  • Sudden or drastic behavior changes or personality changes
  • Becoming increasingly withdrawn or isolated
  • Neglecting their physical appearance or hygiene
  • Sudden financial problems
  • Sudden criminal activity
  • Becoming more secretive or lying about things
  • Decreased emotional stability
  • Showing signs of constantly being tired, like nodding off or sleeping excessively
  • Dilated or constricted pupils
  • Shallow breathing, wheezing, or other potential respiratory problems


Approaching a Loved One About their Opioid Addiction

Approaching a loved one about their opioid addiction can be challenging, and an intervention isn’t always the best option. Remember to approach the situation with empathy and a willingness to help however you can. Hear their concerns, avoid any potential judgment or criticism, and provide resources and support, whether a ride to a treatment center or simply an ear to listen. 

What are Opioids?

Opioids are a specific class of prescription drugs that can uniquely provide pain-relief effects. Manufacturers directly derive some opioids from the opium poppy. In contrast, researchers must create others entirely synthetically in a lab. These drugs bind to specific receptors in the body and brain to block pain in those with severe chronic pain and feelings of euphoria in those who lack such pain. 

Opioids are highly addictive and can considerably impact the mental and physical health of the individual taking them, particularly when taken in substantial amounts or over prolonged periods. Opioids are highly effective at managing chronic or severe pain that is difficult to treat in other ways. Still, they are also highly addictive and can have many adverse effects when misused or abused. Below are some of the most frequently-abused opioids, as well as some information on what they are and how they work. 


Oxycodone is a powerful prescription painkiller prescribed to help manage moderate to severe pain and is highly addictive. It is known for building dependence in users that use it consistently for only a short time. Several brands realize it in the pharmaceutical space, including OxyContin and Percocet.


Doctors use hydrocodone, another prescription opioid, to manage moderate to severe chronic pain in cases where other treatments or medications aren’t as effective. It is addictive and can build dependence with constant use over an extended period. Vicodin and Lortab are brand names for two opioid products.


Heroin is one of the most well-known and dangerous opioids derived from morphine. It’s incredibly addictive and can create dependence with only a few uses over a short period. People take heroin in many ways, including snorting, smoking, and injecting intravenously. The effects are immediate and long-lasting.


Fentanyl has been in the news recently, even though it has existed for many years. It is a synthetic opioid that can be 50x to 100x as potent as morphine and many times more potent than heroin. Fentanyl is used for surgical anesthesia and to manage extreme pain in patients with cancer or other chronic illnesses. It is so potent that it can lead to dependence and addiction, even in those with a high tolerance for opioids. 


Doctors frequently prescribe codeine, a prescription opioid that treats mild to moderate pain or coughing and is less powerful than many other opioids. Since it is less potent than other opioids, codeine is commonly combined with other medications to increase its effectiveness. Like all opioids, codeine is highly addictive and creates a dependence with consistent use.

How Do Opioids Affect the Brain and Body?

Opioids are so dangerous in substance abuse because of their significant impact on the brain and body, especially when taken in large amounts or over an extended time. The most notable effects are the suppression of the central nervous system, slowed and depressed breathing, low heart rate, extreme drowsiness, and cognitive impairment. Even when used as directed, using opioids commonly develops dependence. 

Chronic opioid use, whether legitimate or illicit, causes intense changes to the individual’s neurochemistry. Over time, this makes it increasingly difficult for individuals with opioid addiction to control any aspect of their drug use. Over time, this addiction is known for leading to many negative physical and mental health issues, such as liver damage, kidney damage, respiratory failure, anxiety, and chronic depression.

Can Opioid Addiction Be Left Untreated?

Simply put: no. You should never leave opioid addiction unaddressed or untreated. Addiction is a complex, chronic disease that requires professional treatment and recovery counseling. Once the addiction is in place, it’s no longer an issue of willpower or choices. It’s a battle between various biological, psychological, and environmental factors. 

Without intervention and treatment, opioid addiction is likely to lead to many negative consequences in the life of the addict. These include social issues, health problems, job loss, and homelessness. More severe cases can lead to criminal activity, legal issues, and even death.

Getting Help from Agape Detox

If you or someone you love are struggling with opioid addiction, reaching out for treatment and recovery help is the most important and influential thing you can do for your future health. Agape can provide individuals the support and resources to overcome opioid addiction or other substance abuse. Reach out today to begin building your personalized treatment plan.



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