Does my child have opioid addiction?
Of course, no parent wants to ask themselves such a painful question. Does my child have opioid addiction? To consider the possibility that their son or daughter is a drug addict is too terrible a thought for many parents.
But unfortunately, that tragic reality hits home for many parents around the world today, as we are living amidst a global opioid addiction epidemic. It’s estimated that in America alone, 40 people die every day from pain killer overdose. And the opioid crisis is worsening rather than resolving, fueled in part by the Covid-19 pandemic.
What exactly are opioids?
In simple terms, opioids are a class of potent pain-relief medications, often referred to as opiates or narcotics. They are chemical variations or derivatives of opium originating from the poppy plant. These commonly prescribed strong drugs include hydrocodone, oxycodone, morphine, fentanyl, codeine, buprenorphine and others. Common brand or proprietary names include Vicodin, OxyContin, Percocet, Kadian, Avinza, Suboxone, etc. They are prescribed to treat painful conditions raging from cancers to surgeries, from dental procedures to common injuries and other chronic pain. This class of drugs includes tramadol, a semi-synthetic originally believed to be safer and less addicting. Tramadol, like other opiates, even in combination with acetaminophen (e.g Tramacet) has been shown to be highly addictive causing the US Drug Enforcement Administration to reschedule it in 2014 as a federally controlled substance. Heroin is also an opiate drug, but no longer legally available as an analgesic by prescription in most of the developed world due to extensive opioid misuse, abuse, dependence and addiction.
By blocking or weakening pain signals sent to the brain, these potent medications numb pain. They work directly in the areas of the brain that perceive pain, and they also effect brain areas that control emotion. The lure of these drugs is very strong for anyone suffering from pain. This pain could be physical, mental – in many cases both. In addition to pain relief, these drugs cause feelings of sedation or calmness, and euphoria or well-being.
When appropriately prescribed for acute severe pain, such as related to end-stage cancer, the analgesia is effective and side effects minimal. When taken for less severe pain, chronically, and/or misused for the euphoric effect, tolerance to all effects develop quickly, resulting in the need to take increasingly larger amounts to achieve the desired effect. With this class of drugs, this rapidly developing tolerance is synonymous with physical addiction. These drugs are particularly dangerous when this occurs due to the potent central nervous system (CNS) depressant effects. As the dose increases, the CNS effects result in respiratory depression, in other words, the body’s autonomic reflex to keep breathing is numbed. This is why so many people are dying of opiate or narcotic overdoses. All it takes is slightly too high a dose in pursuit of the ‘high’ feeling for the user to pass out and stop breathing. It is a very sad epidemic indeed. And to call it epidemic is not an exaggeration; people of all ages and socioeconomic backgrounds are dying from opioid addiction overdose.
How can a parent detect opioid addiction?
For some parents, their child’s opioid abuse may be obvious. Sadly, it is too common a situation where a young man or woman has suffered a painful injury, is treated with what should have been temporary prescription, only to eventually grow hopelessly and helplessly dependent on pain medications. Other parents may have no knowledge of their child’s addiction other than parental instincts and suspicions that something just isn’t right. Indicators of opioid addiction range from subtle to overt. In either case, it is absolutely critical that parents learn to recognize the signs and symptoms.
Physically, an addicted loved one may exhibit slurred speech, and have a “long face” expression or drooping eyes. Dilated pupils and noticeably chronic drowsiness are common. Behavioral signs that indicate your child is abusing opioids often include guarded or defensive behavior. Missing money is common. And usually, addiction is marked by a lost interest in personal appearance, schoolwork, and hobbies.
What can a parent do?
The most important thing any parent can do regarding potential alcohol or drug use is to talk openely about the subject with their children. State emphatically what the risks are and your desire for your child to stay healthy. Also, role model healthy behavior. Do not take or store these potent drugs yourself, except in rare situations where they may be used for very short periods of time for severe pain and under strict medical supervision. If you must use one of these drugs with medical advice, be open and transparent about it within the family. Never share, recommend, or lend drugs to others. Return any unused amounts to your pharmacy for safe disposal; do NOT keep them on hand.
If you suspect your child is abusing opioids, take action now. Denial is dangerous. If left unchecked, addictions become exponentially worse. As a parent, remember that young people are vulnerable and insecure. They need your assurance that there is absolutely no shame in getting help, only honor. Rather than criticism or judgment, they need encouragement and support.
As a parent, approach your child with love and acceptance, and remind them that you want to get them the best help available. This is where you need to be directive and take strong leadership. If you have someone you love in your life abusing opiates, they are in serious, life threatening danger. Do not pass it off as a ‘phase’ or convince yourself that your child will be alright, that something bad won’t happen to them. That it only happens to ‘other’ families. Take it with the same seriousness as you would if you saw a loved one playing with a loaded gun.
Professional help is available
Seek good, reliable, professional help right away. Serenity Vista offers the best private-pay rehabilitation and will help your loved one save their life. We understand that drug abuse is a mental and physical affliction, and our extended, holistic treatment will help your loved one recover and rediscover themselves. Serenity Vista private rehab will compassionately and effectively guide this healing and restorative process. Recovery of life and real change are possible resulting in a new life of transformation for your loved one.