How to Help Someone With an Opioid Addiction

couple drug session

Opioid addiction is fairly common in the U.S. and an estimated 2.1 million Americans had an opioid use disorder in 2016. Even more Americans admit to misusing them, with 11.8 Americans or 4.4 percent of the total population reporting at least one incident of opioid misuse in 2016.1 Opioid overdose numbers in the U.S. are also high, with 115 Americans dying every day from an opioid overdose.2

Some people may be unaware that their loved one is suffering from opioid addiction or if they are aware, they may not know how to help. It’s difficult to know how to help an addicted loved one, and often times the best course of action just depends on the situation and the person’s circumstances.

Although there is not always one correct way to help a family member or friend overcome their addiction, this blog may serve as a guide to help you determine the best course of action for your loved one.

Recognizing the Addiction: Signs of Opioid Addiction and Withdrawal

Admitting that your spouse, friend, or child has a drug addiction is never easy, but in order to receive treatment, the issue must first be brought to the light. Since addiction looks different for everyone, it may not always be obvious when a person is struggling, but there are some telltale signs and symptoms of opioid addiction that you can look for. They include:

  • “Losing” opioid prescriptions frequently and return to the doctor for more
  • Visiting more than one doctor to get opioid medications
  • Taking larger or more frequent doses of an opioid medication than prescribed
  • Getting into dangerous and/or life-threatening situations while under the influence of drugs
  • Neglecting important responsibilities at work, home, or school
  • Isolating oneself from friends and family members
  • Blowing through large amounts of money very quickly
  • Neglecting hobbies and activities one used to enjoy

Your loved one may also show some physical signs of opioid addiction, such as3:

  • Poor coordination
  • Drowsiness
  • Shallow breathing
  • Slurred speech
  • Mood swings
  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • Euphoria
  • Nausea and vomiting

Uncharacteristic behavioral and physical signs like the ones listed above could be an indication that your loved one is suffering from opioid addiction and dependence. When a person is addicted to opioid drugs, he or she will also experience uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms when the effects of the drug wear off. These symptoms may include4:

  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Muscle aches
  • Insomnia
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Dilated pupils
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
Talk to a Treatment Expert - (512) 605-2955

    Why is Spotting Opioid Addiction and Dependence So Difficult?

    It may not always be easy to tell if your loved one is struggling with opioid addiction, especially in the early stages of addiction. Sometimes, you may only notice slight changes in behavior, odd mood swings, or you may just feel strongly that something is not right with your loved one.

    Spotting opioid addiction and dependence can also be difficult because many people who misuse opioids (especially prescription opioids) tend to maintain their employment, take care of other responsibilities at home, and maintain a stable appearance overall. However, as time goes on, the consequences of addiction will worsen and become more apparent.

    Even if you know someone very well, you may not be able to objectively assess the person’s drug abuse or recognize opioid addiction if it’s a problem. A doctor or a licensed addiction treatment professional may be better suited to determine whether or not your loved one is addicted to opioids.

    Talking to Your Loved One About Their Addiction

    Although it may be clear that your loved one needs help to overcome their addiction, approaching them about their opioid abuse can be a challenge. First and foremost, it’s important to approach your loved one in a caring manner and let them know that you are concerned for their health and well-being. Instead of being accusatory, emphasize the harm that the drug use has caused in their life (as well as the lives of others around them) and use specific examples to illustrate your point. In addition, try to use “I feel” statements like, “When you (insert specific action), I feel (insert emotion)” to further explain how their substance abuse has impacted your life personally.

    Having a one-on-one conversation with your loved one may be enough to get them to go to drug detox and begin their addiction treatment. On the other hand, in some instances, this may not be enough. It is not uncommon for an addict to completely deny their drug addiction or become very defensive when approached about it. If this is the case with your loved one, you may want to consider seeking the help of a professional interventionist.

    An interventionist is a person who has been trained to organize and host group interventions among family and friends in an effort to help an addicted personal enroll in detox and begin treatment. A professional interventionist will be able to help you plan a group meeting that is efficient, effective, and completely tailored to your loved one.

    Choosing Appropriate Opioid Addiction Treatment

    If you choose to hold an intervention to address your loved one’s opioid addiction, you will need to search for drug detox and rehab programs to present as an option. While searching for treatment options, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) recommends considering the following five questions to ensure your loved one receives the most appropriate care for his or her needs.5

    • Does the program use treatments backed by scientific evidence?
    • Will the program tailor its treatment to the needs of your loved one?
    • Will the program adapt treatment as your loved one’s needs change?
    • Is the duration of treatment sufficient?
    • How do 12-step or similar recovery programs fit into drug treatment?

    By answering these five questions, you’ll be better able to choose a drug detox and rehab program that addresses all of your loved one’s needs and gives them the best opportunity for lasting sobriety.

    Medication-Assisted Treatment for Opioid Addiction

    Drug and alcohol detox is the first step for most people who begin treatment for addiction. Many people who are addicted to opioid drugs enroll in programs that provide Medication Assisted Treatment (or MAT), which is a type of treatment that is comprised of a combination of behavioral counseling and medication like Suboxone or methadone.

    These medications do not get patients high or replace one addiction for another. Instead, they reduce opioid cravings and uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms, helping the client recover both mentally and physically while in treatment. Research shows that this type of treatment increases social functioning and retention in treatment.6

    Get Opioid Addiction Help Today

    There’s never a perfect time to seek treatment for yourself or a loved one, but you can always get started today. Drug detox for opioid addiction is the first step to achieving a stable lifestyle of sobriety.

    At Briarwood Detox Center, we provide medically assisted drug and alcohol detox for all addictive substances. We create individualized detox programs for each client to address the unique physical, emotional and psychological needs of the person. In providing this personalized approach, we are able to make changes to the detox protocol as necessary and ensure that the client receives the highest-quality treatment possible.

    If you or a loved one is addicted to opioid drugs, the addiction treatment professionals at Briarwood Detox Center can help. Please call our admissions team today to learn more about our detox programs and detox centers in Houston and Austin, Texas.


    1. https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/NSDUH-FFR1-2016/NSDUH-FFR1-2016.htm
    2. https://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/epidemic/index.html
    3. https://familydoctor.org/condition/opioid-addiction/
    4. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000949.htm
    5. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/seeking-drug-abuse-treatment-know-what-to-ask/introduction
    6. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/effective-treatments-opioid-addiction/effective-treatments-opioid-addiction

    Get Help Now

      Call Now Button