Spot the Signs of Opioid Abuse in your Family

December is a month of much celebration and good cheer, but it’s also one of the hardest times for people who know the struggles of drug abuse. Whether it’s yourself, or a family member who is addicted to substances, this time of year can put a strong focus on the issues that it causes for entire families. If you keep your eye out for signs of addiction, however, you can use this time of year to turn these difficulties around, and support your loved ones in their recovery. Here is some helpful information about a common type of drug that is abused, opioids, and some signs that a person may be abusing them. 

What are Opioids?

Opioids are a class of substances that range from prescription painkillers to illegal drugs like heroin. While much focus is placed on heroin by law enforcement, prescription painkillers such as Oxycontin are abused at a much higher rate than illegal substances. Prescriptions for opioid-based painkillers are commonly written by doctors and are much more accessible to the general public, and abuse of these substances and fatalities from their misuse has grown at an alarming rate. There are some hallmark signs of drug abuse and addiction you can keep an eye out for in your family members, especially as you gather to celebrate the holidays, either virtually or in person.

Physical Signs

  • Constricted, “Pinpoint” Pupils
  • Itchy Skin
  • Drowsiness, Changes in Sleep Patterns
  • Agitated movements
  • Frequent flu-like symptoms

Social & Behavioral Signs

  • Withdrawing from friends and family
  • Loss of work or struggling in school
  • Financial problems & stealing from loved ones
  • Severe mood swings, depression
  • Frequent doctor’s visits at a variety of practices
  • Impulsive actions and risky behavior

Abuse Prevention

Of course, the best method to minimize drug addiction is to prevent it as much as possible. Experts have several recommendations to avoid the possibility of substance abuse and addiction when it comes to opioids. First, if you are prescribed an opioid-based painkiller by a doctor, discuss its intended effects with them so they don’t come as a surprise. Only take the amount of medication they prescribe to you, and be careful not to exceed the dosage at any one time. Take the painkillers only for as long as you need them to minimize the pain, that is, don’t take them when you’re feeling better, and be mindful of seeking prescription refills.. Only take medications that are prescribed specifically to you, even if someone offers their pills to help you feel better in any situation. Lastly, if there are unused pills after your need for them has passed, dispose of them immediately using this guide

Getting Help

If you suspect a family member is experiencing the effects of drug addiction, you’re not alone. We’ve shared some links below for families who are seeking ways to support the recovery of a loved one and help them stay off of addictive substances for good. 


SAMHSA’s National Helpline (US)

Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction

Drug and alcohol abuse | Child Family Community Australia