If You Think There Might Be a Problem, There Already Is

If You Think There Might Be a Problem, There Already Is

Opiate abuse cases range in severity, complexity, and duration. Family members often struggle when they think a loved one is using opiate drugs, but they don’t know how or when to bring up the subject of considering outpatient treatment.

A substance use disorder is described clinically as a medical condition that produces significant impairments in health management, social function, and self-control.

A drug abuser may know their drug of choice threatens life and security, but not be physically or mentally able to face opiate withdrawal without specialized help and support delivered in opiate treatment centers.

In a perfect world, all initial substance use disorders would be identified early through screenings in a medical setting, be it a hospital emergency room, primary care physician’s office, other location. Yet, medical personnel often miss early warning signs, and too few providers routinely screen for drug abuse risks and indicators. Sadly, the first confirmation of a problem is often signs of opiate overdose identified by first responders.

Opiate Overdose Symptoms: The Opioid Overdose Triad

  • Pinpoint pupils
  • Compromised consciousness
  • Depressed respiration

As many as 25% of patients seen in primary care settings struggle with depression, however primary care professionals only identify about a third of these patients, according to the Agency for Healthcare Research & Quality (AHRQ).

Mental illness and drug use disorders often go hand in hand, along with other diseases such as diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease, epilepsy, and certain cancers.

Often, when people wonder if friends or family members are battling drug addiction, the signs clearly point to a substance misuse disorder.Opiate abuse cases range in severity, complexity, and duration. Family members often struggle when they think a loved one is using opiate drugs, but they don't know how or when to bring up the subject of considering outpatient treatment. A substance use disorder is described clinically as a medical condition that produces significant impairments in health management, social function, and self-control. A drug abuser may know their drug of choice threatens life and security, but not be physically or mentally able to face opiate withdrawal without specialized help and support delivered in opiate treatment centers. In a perfect world, all initial substance use disorders would be identified early through screenings in a medical setting, be it a hospital emergency room, primary care physician's office, other location. Yet, medical personnel often miss early warning signs, and too few providers routinely screen for drug abuse risks and indicators. Sadly, the first confirmation of a problem is often signs of opiate overdose identified by first responders. Opiate Overdose Symptoms: The Opioid Overdose Triad Pinpoint pupils Compromised consciousness Depressed respiration As many as 25% of patients seen in primary care settings struggle with depression, however primary care professionals only identify about a third of these patients, according to the Agency for Healthcare Research & Quality (AHRQ). Mental illness and drug use disorders often go hand in hand, along with other diseases such as diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease, epilepsy, and certain cancers. Often, when people wonder if friends or family members are battling drug addiction, the signs clearly point to a substance misuse disorder.

Recognizing Signs & Symptoms

Binge drinking is a good indicator of an alcohol problem in the making. According to the National Survey on Drug Use & Health (2015), there are over 66 million binge drinkers in the United States. For the purposes of the study, a binge drinker is any male person over the age of 12 years who consumes five or more alcoholic beverages in one sitting. The drink count is capped at four drinks for females. Many binge drinkers become addicted to alcohol and/or move on to other drugs to cope with physical or emotional pain.

Regardless of the substance – opiate drugs, alcohol, meth, prescription medications – periodic over-consumption may be an early warning sign that the user engages in other risky behavior.

By the time someone develops noticeable dental and oral hygiene problems, someone suffering from drug addiction is probably already in crisis.

One of the primary problems with non-medically trained individuals using observation and self-guided diagnosis to determine if there is a brewing addiction crisis is that observation without testing to confirm findings could easily lead to misdiagnosis. For example, depression and chemical/hormonal imbalances often produce changes in mood, behavior and eating patterns. Some hypertension medications cause night terrors and both visual and auditory hallucinations. Doctors may find previously undiagnosed brain tumors when a comes in with headaches, fever, and other flu-like symptoms. So, although the outward signs point to a medical crisis, there is no way to be sure when to call the doctor or start checking addiction treatment centers for availability.

The Value of Self-Guided Diagnosis vs Addiction Treatment Centers

Observation has its limitations, yet it is troublesome to watch someone’s health decline without questioning why. In the Internet era, when there is an unanswered medical question, people often visit one of the online symptom checkers before they speak to their doctor.

While knowledge is power, a team of Harvard Medical School researchers found that online symptom checkers are only accurate about half the time. In an interview with Time Health, Dr. Ateev Mehrotra, an associate professor at Harvard´s medical school who participated in the study, suggested that even though these online tools aren’t highly accurate “people [can] use them as an additional piece of information about their health” to share with doctors and other medical providers.

Watching for signs of addiction is compassionate. However, when there are signs of opiate overdose, it is imperative to call 9-1-1 immediately, even if the person is still somewhat conscious.

When a drug addiction is suspected, it is important to recognize both abuse signals and opiate overdose symptoms:

  • Uncharacteristic behavior, including waning responsibility, dependability, and trustworthiness
  • Change in appetite, sleep patterns, and communication
  • Extreme agitation or emotional withdrawal
  • Complaints of flu-like symptoms
  • Loss of interest in daily hygiene
  • Physical changes – weight loss, visible sores on the face, chest, and trunk
  • Declining grades (high school and college students)
  • Loss of productivity in the workplace and/or increased sick day requests

opiate overdose symptoms

Identifying the Problem

Confirming Drug-Seeking Behavior

Recognizing the signs and symptoms of substance misuse is only the first step. Many people don’t know what to do or where to go when they suspect someone close to them is having a drug problem. While it is often difficult to start a conversation about the benefits of addiction treatment centers, early intervention may mean the difference between life and death. 

Ample research shows that screening and brief interventions (SBI) are beneficial for decreasing risky behavior and substance misuse. These measures work for diverse patient populations and in many different healthcare environments. It should be noted that SBI results are demonstrably positive for reducing alcohol use, but results are mixed with opioids and other psychotropic substances.

Opiate treatment centers often have intervention programs to help family members get the conversation started.  Getting professional help often produces better outcomes than a self-guided intervention since professionals can immediately implement customized, evidence-based treatment plans to address underlying mental and medical diseases to give the substance abuser at a better chance at full recovery.   

Of the 8.9 million people in the United States diagnosed with both a mental health disorder and a substance misuse disorder, less than 15 percent receive treatment for both, according to the American Psychological Association.

Seeking Help

In the proper context, screening for opiate drugs and other dependencies helps medical professionals develop a recovery plan customized to the individual. Knowing when an individual is ready to enter a drug treatment program voluntarily requires listening to the substance user. Although it is preferable to discuss early, before signs of opiate overdose appear, substance abusers have dozens of excuses for not entering rehab.

People refuse treatment for many reasons and treatment centers strive to overcome these objections.

The most frequently heard reason for not entering a rehab program is the users is not ready to stop (almost 41 percent). Many individuals don’t admit a severe problem is disrupting their life or that they cannot control their use patterns without help. This unrealistic view of their circumstance is most likely a result of brain changes from substance misuse that affect decision-making and impulse control.

Other common reasons that treatment center staff hear for not starting the rehabilitation journey include:

  • Clinic to too far from home/office
  • Don’t have transportation
  • Clinic isn’t open at the right times to coordinate work/school schedules
  • No insurance coverage or cannot afford services
  • Afraid of losing  their job if the employer finds out about addiction disorders

Families can help by offering to drive people seeking treatment to their counseling sessions and medical visits in outpatient addiction treatment centers. Rehab staff may contact employers to help them create benefits packages designed to reduce stigma and encourage employees to seek medical help. Some facilities have adjusted hours, opened remote treatment sites and implemented community outreach programs to get volunteers involved to help patients access financial, social, cultural and government resources.

When a person is motivated to enter a recovery program, outcomes improve, although relapse is common, and should be considered a normal, albeit frustrating part of the journey toward sobriety.

Helping Improve Early Education & Intervention Processes

When discussing drug addiction, many people search for someone, or something, to blame. The substance abuser, Big Pharma, foreign governments, drug cartels and smugglers pushing illicit drugs across our southern border. Pointing fingers doesn’t offer families who have lost the battle with opioids any comfort.

Along with early intervention programs in communities, new legislation and community outreach programs across the country strive to focus on prevention as a means to stem the escalating crisis in America.

When Arkansans with opioid addictions can no longer afford to buy pain pills, they often turn to the street for heroin or fentanyl, which offers a similar high at a fraction of the price but at a much higher cost — their lives,” Attorney General Rutledge.

In April, Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge and Senator Tom Cotton held a round-table discussion on the state law enforcement personnel and affected families.

AG Rutledge told attendees about the Prescription for Life initiate launched in 2017. This first-in-the-nation educational tool targets all high school students in Arkansas with information about the dangers associated with prescription drug misuse and how to protect against prescribed pain reliever addiction. At the time, AG Rutledge said the program had already reached 3,800 students in 49 schools, and an additional 20 schools planned to launch a local program before the end of 2018.

Fentanyl claimed more than 20,000 American lives in 2017. Unless we come together as a nation to address the ever-growing substance abuse problem in the United States, that number will continue to grow year after year. Legislators in Arkansas and other states are beginning to work together to address the complex nature of drug addiction, to develop effective, multifaceted prevention and treatment programs.

Arkansas initiatives aim to:

  • Address antiquated laws with harsh sentences that do nothing to address substance abuse directly
  • Ensure drug traffickers and smugglers receive sentences commiserate with their crimes
  • Inform and educate communities about prevention and treatment options available in the state for families and people struggling to break the substance abuse cycle
  • Hold pharmaceutical companies and medical prescribers responsible for damage caused by irresponsible behavior
  • Update technology to identify fentanyl and other drugs shipped through the US Postal Service
  • Expand drug take-bake locations throughout the state
  • Offer free training, education, and support to law enforcement personnel, pharmacists, doctors, educators and medical professionals about the risk of over-prescribing painkillers and addictive medication formulas

prescribing painkillers

Finding a Best-Fit Outpatient Treatment Facility 

Modern, evidence-based treatment plans continue to evolve. Ideal drug misuse centers have replaced standardized care plans with highly individualized programs based on each patient’s needs and personal journey. Holistic therapies have been shown to reduce harsh opiate withdrawal symptoms. Modern clinics today look for alternatives to replacing one drug with another drug.

Numerous studies confirm that personalized treatment plans designed around collaborative, multidisciplinary, patient-centered care provide better outcomes and lower relapse rates than previous models focused only on treating drug dependency. Alternative therapies help people prepare for sober living by giving them ways to express themselves openly and cope with stressful situations.

When you think there might be a problem, there probably is. A best-fit treatment center serves people with the individual dignity they deserve and need to pursue sobriety.