Prescription drug addiction is a serious and growing problem in the United States. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, approximately 18 million people misused prescription drugs in 2018, and the number of overdose deaths involving prescription opioids has quadrupled since 1999. If you suspect that a loved one may be struggling with prescription drug addiction, it is important to recognize the signs and take action to help them get the treatment they need.
Here are some steps you can take to determine if your loved one is addicted to prescription drugs:
- Pay attention to their behavior and mood. One of the first signs of prescription drug addiction may be a change in behavior or mood. If your loved one seems more agitated, anxious, or depressed than usual, it could be a sign that they are using drugs to cope with their emotions. Other behavioral changes to look out for include:
- Isolation: Withdrawing from social activities or spending more time alone
- Neglecting responsibilities: Missing work or school, not taking care of household duties
- Changes in sleep patterns: Staying awake for long periods of time or sleeping more than usual
- Look for physical signs of drug use. There are also physical signs to look out for that may indicate prescription drug addiction. These can include:
- Slurred speech or difficulty speaking clearly
- Drowsiness or lethargy
- Constricted pupils or changes in eye movement
- Unusual sweating or changes in body temperature
- Difficulty walking or coordinating movements
- Nausea, vomiting, or other digestive problems
- Be aware of their prescription drug use If you are concerned that your loved one may be misusing prescription drugs, pay attention to their use of these medications. Some red flags to look out for include:
- Taking more of the medication than prescribed
- Using someone else’s prescription
- Obtaining prescriptions from multiple doctors (a practice known as “doctor shopping”)
- Using prescription drugs in combination with other substances, such as alcohol or illegal drugs
- Notice any changes in their appearance. Prescription drug abuse can also lead to changes in a person’s appearance. These can include:
- Weight loss or gain
- Deterioration in personal hygiene
- Changes in appetite or eating habits
- Ask them directly. If you are still unsure whether your loved one is struggling with prescription drug addiction, consider talking to them directly. While it can be difficult to broach the subject, it is important to have an open and honest conversation about your concerns. Let your loved one know that you are there to support them and that you are willing to help them get the treatment they need.
It can be very difficult to watch a loved one struggle with prescription drug abuse. Prescription drug abuse is the use of prescription medication in a way that is not intended by the prescribing doctor. It can involve taking a medication that was not prescribed for you, taking a medication in a way that was not intended (such as in higher doses or more frequently than prescribed), or taking a medication to achieve a certain effect (such as to get high). Prescription drug abuse can have serious consequences, including addiction, overdose, and death.
If you have a loved one who is struggling with prescription drug abuse, it is important to approach the situation with care and concern. Here are some steps you can take to help:
- Educate yourself about the specific medication and the risks of abuse: It is important to understand the medication that your loved one is taking and the potential risks of abuse. This will help you to identify any red flags and to have a better understanding of the situation.
- Talk to your loved one: It can be difficult to bring up the subject of prescription drug abuse, but it is important to have an open and honest conversation with your loved one. Approach the conversation with care and concern, and try to listen without judging.
- Encourage your loved one to seek help: If your loved one is willing to seek help, encourage them to speak to their doctor or a mental health professional. They may also benefit from joining a support group or attending a treatment program.
- Offer support: It is important to be there for your loved one and to offer support throughout their journey towards recovery. This may involve helping them to find resources, accompanying them to appointments, and offering emotional support.
- Take care of yourself: Caring for a loved one who is struggling with prescription drug abuse can be emotionally and physically draining. It is important to take care of yourself and to seek support for yourself if you need it.
If you are concerned that your loved one may be at risk of overdose, it is important to seek immediate medical attention. The opioid overdose reversal drug naloxone (Narcan) can be used to reverse the effects of an overdose and save a person’s life. It is a good idea to have naloxone on hand and to know how to use it.
Helping a loved one who is struggling with prescription drug abuse is not easy, but with education, support, and a willingness to seek help, it is possible for them to recover and live a healthy and fulfilling life.