Addiction does not discriminate and it could happen to anyone.
Addiction to opiates and/or heroin can begin innocently. Prescription drug abuse cuts right across all sectors of the community: from young teens to the elderly, from high school students and college students to health professionals like doctors, nurses and veterinarians. It can affect the unemployed in economically depressed areas to the wealthiest of Hollywood celebrities. It might start with teens experimenting with unused prescription pain medications, perhaps after a medical procedure or recovering from a sports injury. Any of these may lead to addiction to heroin.
Prescription pain medicines and heroin are both opiates. This means they have similar effects in the body. The human brain has a unique capacity to adjust to the chemicals in opiates which both relieve pain and produce a sense of well-being. These same chemical reactions create a dependency on the drug which makes it more difficult to quit. With the right treatment and supports, recovery does happen.
Signs of Opiate Addiction
What signs should you look for to know if someone is abusing and may be addicted to prescription pills or heroin? There are some potential signs that may indicate that someone is struggling with an opiate addiction:
- Becomes increasingly solitary to the addiction from family and loved ones
- Behavior changes or extreme alterations in mood such as frequent expression of hostility, anger, anxiety, or agitation
- Continued use of the opiate, even after pain has subsided
- Deceitful or illegal behaviors to obtain additional prescriptions or greater quantities of the drug
- Isolation from loved ones and social events
- Decline in overall performance, in work, school, or social life
- Frequently nodding or “doping” off in inappropriate circumstances
- Complaint of physical symptoms, such as cramping, diarrhea, itchy skin, joint and muscle pain, nausea and vomiting, anxiety, insomnia, headaches, etc.
- Neglect of personal hygiene, changes in eating habits, or ill-looking appearance
- Ongoing confusion or disorientation
If you or a loved one is experiencing any of these signs or symptoms as a result of an addiction to opiates, please seek the counsel of a health professional, as the addiction can quickly spiral out of control.
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What can I do if I have a loved one struggling with an Opioid/Heroin Addiction
The Partnership for a Drug Free America offers the following three step prevention guide:
Parents, you are in a position to help reduce child access to prescription drugs. Take precautions to ensure none of your medicine is missing.
- Note how many pills you have.
- Keep track of your refills and the refills of other people in your home. If refills are needed sooner than expected, something is wrong.
- Control your child’s medication, monitoring the dosages and refills.
- Make other family members (especially grandparents) and friends aware of the risks. Encourage them to monitor their own prescriptions.
Children abuse prescription drugs because they are easily accessible, free or inexpensive.
- Approach securing your prescriptions the same way you secure other valuables.
- Hide prescriptions and other over the counter medicine in a secure place away from your children.
- Encourage your friends and relatives to do the same.
Safely disposing of expired and unused prescription medications is a critical step in protecting your children.
- Take a medications inventory. Discard expired and unused drugs while your children are not at home.
- Children will take drugs from the trash; therefore try to drop your unwanted medicines off at a drop center.
- Do not flush medications down the toilet.
- Remove all personal, identifiable information from your prescription bottles before throwing them away to prevent unauthorized refills and Identity Theft.
As with most dangers to our children, communication is the most important aspect of prevention. Talk to your kids about the harmful effects associated with the abuse of prescription and over-the-counter medication.