Under The Influence? Warning Signs
The use and abuse of alcohol and drugs are serious issues that should not be ignored or minimized and we should not sit back and hope they just go away. If left untreated, use and abuse can develop into drug dependence or alcoholism. As a result, it is important to recognize the signs and symptoms of alcohol and drug abuse early. If you’re worried that your son or daughter might be abusing alcohol or drugs, here are some of the warning signs to look for:
1. Physical and health warning signs of drug abuse
- Eyes that are bloodshot or pupils that are smaller or larger than normal.
- Frequent nosebleeds could be related to snorted drugs (meth or cocaine)
- Changes in appetite or sleep patterns. Sudden weight loss or weight gain.
- Seizures without a history of epilepsy
- Deterioration in personal grooming or physical appearance.
- Impaired coordination, injuries/accidents/bruises that they won’t or can’t tell you about- they don’t know how they got hurt
- Unusual smells on breath, body, or clothing.
- Shakes, tremors, incoherent or slurred speech, impaired or unstable coordination.
2. Behavioral signs of alcohol or drug abuse
- Skipping class, declining grades, getting in trouble at school
- Drop in attendance and performance at work- loss of interest in extracurricular activities, hobbies, sports or exercise- decreased motivation
- Complaints from co-workers, supervisors, teachers or classmates
- Missing money, valuables, prescription or prescription drugs, borrowing and stealing money
- Acting isolated, silent, withdrawn, engaging in secretive or suspicious behaviors
- Clashes with family values and beliefs
- Preoccupation with alcohol and drug-related lifestyle in music, clothing and posters
- Demanding more privacy, locking doors and avoiding eye contact
- Sudden change in relationships, friends, favorite hangouts, and hobbies.
- Frequently getting into trouble (arguments, fights, accidents, illegal activities)
- Using incense, perfume, air freshener to hide smell of smoke or drugs
- Using eyedrops to mask bloodshot eyes and dilated pupils
3. Psychological warning signs of alcohol or drug abuse
- Unexplained, confusing change in personality and/or attitude.
- Sudden mood changes, irritability, angry outbursts or laughing at nothing.
- Periods of unusual hyperactivity or agitation.
- Lack of motivation; inability to focus, appears lethargic or “spaced out.”
- Appears fearful, withdrawn, anxious, or paranoid, with no apparent reason.
Opioids, or opiates, are
a type of drug with powerful pain-relieving properties. Doctors often prescribe
these for severe pain, such as after a surgery or for a root canal. Opioids
have many names, including Vicodin, Percocet, OxyContin, codeine, and more. There
are also other opioids that are not prescribed—like heroin or illicit fentanyl.
When prescribed by a doctor, opioids can be used in a responsible way to reduce
pain. But because they also affect parts of the brain that control how you feel
pleasure, some people may want to take them even when they’re not in pain,
which can lead down a road to addiction.
- I GET IT—OPIOIDS ARE ADDICTIVE.
HOW DO I MAKE SURE I DON’T GET ADDICTED?
First off, most people
who take prescription opioids do not become addicted or suffer an overdose, but
opioids get more risky when they are used for something other than what your doctor
prescribes, if they are used more frequently than prescribed, or if they are
expired. Doctors may prescribe opioids after surgery, for broken bones, and
even for certain dental procedures. But you don’t have to leave the doctor’s
office without asking questions. Have a conversation with your doctor if you
think the pain medicine he or she is prescribing is an opioid. You can ask for
alternative treatment for pain or ask for a limited prescription so you don’t
have pills that you will need to dispose of later. If you do get a
prescription, using the drug exactly as the doctor prescribed, at the exact
time your doctor told you to take it (daily, twice daily, etc.) goes a long way
toward preventing addiction. You should also stop taking opioids as soon as you
can get relief from over-the-counter medicines like aspirin or Tylenol.
- WHAT DO I DO IF I HAVE EXTRA
PILLS AROUND THE HOUSE?
Most important, make
sure you are not sharing your prescribed drugs with anyone else, even if
other are feeling pain or you think your prescription could help them feel
better. Your doctor wrote this prescription for you—don’t help someone
along the path to addiction. When you, your doctor, and your parents
determine you don’t need any more of your prescribed pain medicine, make sure
you get rid of it safely. It may sound easy, but don’t flush or throw out your
pills. Many pharmacies and police stations will destroy any prescription drugs
you no longer need or want.
- I HAVE A FRIEND WHO I THINK MAY
HAVE A PROBLEM. HOW DO I KNOW?
People who develop an
addiction might act differently than they used to. They might change their friends,
or choose to spend a lot of time alone. They may lose interest in their
favorite things, or quickly change between feeling bad and feeling
good. Physical signs that someone may be abusing an opioid include drowsiness,
small pupils, and slow breathing. Misusing prescription opioids opens a
door to heroin and other street drugs.
Nearly 80 percent of people addicted to heroin started first with
prescription opioids. It is important to be aware that misusing opioids
can lead to other addiction problems. People with an addiction often
can’t stop taking drugs on their own; you can make sure they are able to
find help. The risk of developing an addiction
is higher if their parents abuse drugs. Also if someone in their
family is addicted to drugs, that individual needs to be even
more cautious to remain safe and healthy. If you know someone who is
using or addicted, encourage him or her to talk to a parent, teacher,
coach, or other trusted adult. Your friend may not be ready to talk to someone about
their drug use, but you can be prepared to help him or her when they are.
- IF SOMEONE IS MISUSING AN
OPIOID, YOU CAN ENCOURAGE THEM TO GET HELP. OPIOID MISUSE CAN
MEAN A FEW THINGS, INCLUDING: OKAY, WHAT DOES “ADDICTION”
If you take prescription
opioids that have not been prescribed to you, take more than your doctor prescribed,
or take medicine simply for how it makes you feel, tell your doctor, a parent,
or another trusted adult. These are signs that you may have a substance use
disorder, and you need professional help. The sooner you get help, the better
your chances are for recovery. Asking for help is the first important step. If
you have a good relationship with your parents, you should start there. If you
don’t want to talk to your parents, find an adult you trust and ask him or her for
help. The next step is to go to your doctor. There are lots of options for
treatment. Medicine, along with other supports, can
help you fight the addiction. There are lots of people who are willing and
trained to help. Work with a trusted adult and your doctor to get the
right treatment. It takes a lot of courage to seek help for a possible
drug problem, because there is a lot of hard work ahead. But treatment
works, meaning you can recover and get your life back
- THERE IS A FREE, CONFIDENTIAL,
24/7 INFORMATION SERVICE FOR INDIVIDUALS, FRIENDS, AND FAMILY MEMBERS WHO
ARE WORRIED ABOUT A SUBSTANCE USE DISORDER. 1-800-662-HELP (4357)