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This is the #1 Sign You Have an Opioid Addiction Problem

Know when you crossed the line.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

The current opioid epidemic is often dated to the late 1990s, when Oxycontin came to market and there was a push to more aggressively treat chronic non cancer pain. While true in some respects, the bigger reality is that this is the nation's third major opioid epidemic dating back to the late 1880s. One implication is that our current understanding of addiction and the legal and justice frameworks reflect thinking as far back as 100+ years. The ripple effects have impacted everything from housing law to welfare benefits to the healthcare system and insurance design to internet regulation. As a result, the current opioid crisis is a way to understand how our communities are responding to the struggle of economic change, a siloed and under-resourced healthcare system, and stresses from COVID disruptions and isolation. Opioid addiction is not a new phenomenon but we are in the middle of a very 21st-century epidemic. Read on to find out signs you have an opioid addiction problem—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


You Focus on Using Opioids


A singular focus on funding, obtaining, using, and recovering from using opioids suggests that opioids have displaced most other priorities in daily life. Often this coincides with anger from friends and family, increasing isolation from prior social networks, and an inability to keep up with other responsibilities.


Worsening Financial Problems And Relationships

Woiman sitting at the table worrying about the money.

You may experience escalating use despite worsening problems in life. The crux of addiction is losing control over one's use of a given substance. In the case of opioids, this often looks like daily (or near-daily) use amid worsening financial problems, intrusions on daily activities, and dysfunctional relationships.


You Don't Get "High" Anymore

stressed woman

You don't enjoy using anymore. The drug use has become compulsive just to not feel sick and uncomfortable. So opioids help stop the suffering but there isn't necessarily a "high" anymore. This is called negative reinforcement: when the drug use helps remove the distressing physical or psychological problems from withdrawal. Negative reinforcement is an incredibly powerful force to keep using despite all of the problems and chaos.


You Experience Increased Amount of Infections and Injuries

Female physiotherapist giving leg massage to active senior woman in sports center

While opioid molecules themselves may be non-toxic, individuals using opioids, especially those from the black market, can experience infections, injuries, and life-threatening complications from using in unsafe methods or when combining with other substances- whether intentional or not. Injecting drugs is incredibly dangerous. Drug injection was a major driver of the AIDS epidemic in the 1970s and 1980s and now contributes to elevated rates of hepatitis C among drug injectors. Additionally, the black market and online drug supply is often mislabeled and adulterated with myriad other contaminants and physiologically active compounds that can cause harm or interfere with prescribed medications for physical and psychiatric conditions.

RELATED: ​​Here's What Lupus Feels Like, Say Physicians


You Are Starting to Buy Drugs From the Street

Male drug addict with at rave party, nightclub

Over time as someone's tolerance increases, they often look for stronger and cheaper versions of the drug. This has led to skyrocketing rates of heroin and fentanyl use from the street (and online vendors) as opioid users had more difficulty finding affordable pills from prescribers and pharmacies.

RELATED: Doing This After Age 60 is "Unhealthy," Say Physicians


What You Should Do If You Notice These Signs

depressed woman talking to lady psychologist during session, mental health

Talk to people you trust: family, friends, religious leaders, etc. Tell them you need help getting connected to treatment. And find a provider or treatment program well versed in using the FDA-approved medications for opioid use disorder: buprenorphine, methadone, or extended-release naltrexone. These medications are the gold standard for evidence based care and without the use of medications the great majority of patients relapse and are at elevated risk of death.

RELATED: Habits Secretly Increasing Your Blood Clot Risk, Say Physicians


Last Word From Doctor

doctor and patient having a somber conversation

Evidence based treatment is transformative and lifesaving. The longer patients stay in care, the better they do. Every day on medication (compared to skipping or quitting medication) reduces the risk of overdose death by 70-80%. It is incredibly protective, but only while someone keeps taking it. And to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Dr. Williams is Assistant Professor of Clinical Psychiatry, Columbia University Division on Substance Use Disorders and Medical Director, Ophelia Health.

Arthur Robin Williams, MD, MBE
Arthur Robin Williams MD MBE, Medical Director, Ophelia Health Read more about Arthur Robin
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