Recognizing the Signs & Withdrawal Symptoms of a Narcotic Addiction

Sections: Stages of Addiction | The Signs | Withdrawal Symptoms | How You Can Help | Self-Screening Questions | Getting Treatment

In 2016, more than 64,000 Americans died as a result of drug overdoses. This statistic becomes even more worrisome when coupled with the fact that overdose deaths had nearly doubled over the course of a single decade. With tens of thousands of drug-related deaths each year, and hundreds of thousands of people continuing to struggle with addiction every day, there is no question that narcotics addiction is one of the nation’s greatest challenges.


Stages of Narcotics Addiction

Depending upon the drug in question, the experience of becoming addicted can vary significantly. Generally speaking, however, a narcotics addiction follows a fairly common sequence of progression. Initially, a person may use a narcotic once to satisfy peer pressure, temporarily escape from pain, or simply see what it feels like. When they want to have that feeling again, they begin to do it more often. Eventually, a chemical addiction develops in the brain, forcing the person to use the drugs regularly to feel normal and avoid illness.

Early signs of addiction to narcotics may include the following:

  • Strange changes in behavior or personality
  • Unexplained absences
  • Financial problems, borrowing money
  • Missing events/appointments
  • A decline in outward appearance


Physical and Behavioral Narcotics Addiction Signs

If you are worried that a loved one may be addicted to narcotics, consider whether they are showing any of the following telltale signs of narcotics addiction:

  • Glazed look, red eyes
  • Tooth decay
  • Lines or puncture “dots” on the arms (“track marks”)
  • Blistered, cracking lips
  • Nostril sores/redness
  • Intoxicated appearance
  • Reckless behavior
  • Problems at work/difficulty keeping job
  • Mood swings
  • Defensiveness when questioned
  • Ambivalence about future plans

Narcotics Withdrawal Symptoms

When a person who has become addicted to narcotics no longer has access to the drug, their body enters a state of chemical withdrawal. During this period, a person may exhibit a variety of uncomfortable, painful, or even life-threatening withdrawal symptoms:

  • Nausea, vomiting
  • Stomach problems, diarrhea
  • Hallucinations
  • Nightmares
  • Anxiety, paranoia
  • Depression
  • Headaches
  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Drug cravings
  • Anger, aggression
  • Lashing out violently
  • Coughing, respiratory issues
  • Extreme shifts in body temperature
  • Dangerously high or low heart rate/blood pressure

The specific symptoms an individual will experience during withdrawals depend upon the type of drug, the strength of the dose, and the frequency and duration of use.


How to Help: Identifying Signs and Discussing Treatment Options

The earlier you’re able to identify narcotics addiction symptoms, the sooner you can get your loved ones the help they need. If you notice any physical or behavioral red flags, bring them up honestly without yelling or making accusations. Be prepared with information and resources, and be willing to walk them through their treatment options.

Remember: Even if you aren’t able to identify an addiction right away, it’s not your fault. People who are addicted to narcotics typically go to great lengths to hide their substance use from others.


Self-Screening Questions

If you believe a loved one has developed a narcotics problem but he or she denies the issue when confronted, ask him or her to go through the following self-screening questions:

  1. Have you used narcotics in the last month?
  2. Do you feel like you are unable to function normally without drugs?
  3. Do you start to feel ill or uncomfortable when you haven’t taken narcotics?
  4. Do you find yourself thinking about a drug often throughout the day (taking it, finding money to buy it, worrying whether you have enough)?
  5. Have you canceled plans, missed work, or forgotten to do something important because you were buying, using, or thinking about obtaining narcotics?
  6. Other than the purchase of the narcotics themselves, have you done anything illegal or immoral (e.g., stealing money, lying about serious issues, committing a violent act) to obtain them? What about as a result of taking it?

If the person answers “yes” to even a couple of these questions, he or she may be dealing with an addiction to narcotics. More importantly, considering these questions should help your loved one see the issue more objectively and recognize his or her addiction for what it is.

Help Your Loved Ones Get Compassionate Professional Treatment

At Yellowstone Recovery in southern California, we provide expert narcotics addiction rehab to individuals from all walks of life. Clients begin with a safe, medically supervised detox period, then move into primary residential treatment where they work on underlying issues through group and individual therapy. At the end of the program, clients also have the opportunity to be placed in sober living during their transition back into society.

For more information or to discuss treatment for your loved one, call us today at (888) 418-4188.


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