Warning Signs of Opioid Use Disorder

Thousands of Americans rely on prescription painkillers (opioids) for the relief of pain and discomfort from ailments such as headaches, menstrual cramps, surgery recovery, or lingering pain from an injury. However this reliance on pain medication can unexpectedly lead to physical dependence that may evolve into Opioid Use Disorder.

The scary fact is that the most commonly prescribed opioids including OxyContin, Vicodin, Norco, and Percocet can also cause a dependency on the drugs and if not taken withdrawal symptoms can set in. 

If you are concerned that someone is developing an Opioid Use Disorder, intervening early and accessing recovery support can lead to a positive outcome.

Over time, it is common for individuals taking prescription medications to grow tolerant to the effects of their prescribed dose. If someone you know seems to be increasing his/her dose over time, this is an indication that the amount they were taking is no longer providing them relief.

Changes in a person’s normal behavior can be a sign of dependency. Shifts in energy, mood, and concentration may occur as everyday responsibilities become secondary to the need for the relief the prescription provides.


A person experiencing a dependency problem may withdraw from family, friends, and other social interactions.



Continued usage after a medical condition has improved will result in the person needing extensions on his/her prescription. The person might talk of how they are “still feeling pain” and need just a little longer on the medication to get well. He or she might also complain frequently about doctors who refuse to prescribe for one reason or another.

A dependant person will spend large amounts of time driving great distances and visiting multiple doctors to obtain the drugs. Watch for signs that he or she seems preoccupied with a quest for medication, demonstrating that the drug has become their top priority.



Personal hygiene may diminish as a result of drug abuse. Sleeping and eating habits change, and a person may have a constant cough, runny nose, and red, glazed eyes.


A dependent person may call in sick to work more often, neglect household chores and bills, and even neglect people and things under their care like children, parents, and pets. 


Normal sights, sounds, and emotions might become overly stimulating to the person. Hallucinations, although perhaps difficult to monitor, may occur as well.

Another clear indication of dependence is when the person regularly forgets events that have taken place and appears to be suffering blackouts.

When attempting to hide a drug dependency, abusers can become very defensive if they feel their secret is being discovered. They might even react to simple requests or questions by lashing out.


Prescriptions to pain medication can be safe when taken according to the doctor’s instructions and are carefully monitored. However, it is important to recognize that they can also be very dangerous.

Remember that dependency is a disease that can exhibit itself to even the most cautious individual. Therefore, anyone who is prescribed pain medications should take extra precautions to avoid the debilitating effects a dependency can have and watch for the warning signs.

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