Written By:Campbell Manning,LPC
Opiates are so ultimately deceiving as the drug of choice for our loved ones because you can’t smell them or, really see them, until the signs are blatant – and even then, unless you’ve been down the block a few times – not obviously discernible. When my 16 year old son was abusing them, it never even occurred to me they could be part of what was going on because it never crossed my mind they could be recreationally used. (Yes, I was that naive!). In the beginning, the child you love who is abusing opiates looks good, maybe even better than you’ve seen in the recent past, when they may have been pulling away due to alcohol or marijuana use – because they are more conversational, chattier, more charming, and interested in who you are and what you are doing. Initially, this looks fabulous, like you’ve gotten your child back to a small degree and you will most likely celebrate their return to your “world”. Within time though, they stop participating in family activities, lose interest in hobbies and sports, and show only minimal ability to maintain a balance in life that includes any ability to care for things and people that used to matter.
Opiates have their own withdrawal patterns and symptoms, which are hard to spot until you know what you are doing, because people in opiate addiction cycles exhibit signs of being sick, and I mean sick like we think sick means to us. They are nauseous, sweaty, report flu-like symptoms, can have runny noses, and look truly ill. I fell prey to being concerned, loving, kind, and care-giving time after time, when I thought my child had the flu or some other saddening illness – when all along he was just in opiate withdrawal and lying yet again to me.
Typically, someone with an opiate problem, loses weight, because they tend to be constipated while using, and have diarrhea and other flu like symptoms in withdrawal – and who can, or even want to eat, if constipated or feeling sick?? When our loved ones fall prey to opiate addiction it is hard to identify since pills don’t smell (like marijuana), leave tell-tale odor on their breath (like alcohol), and they appear to have normal motor skill function. However, pills are expensive so as their habit grows out of control they usually start to steal from us. At first our own current or leftover medications might be missing or pills start to be taken from grandparents houses. Then it might be money missing from our wallets that we question evening having the first few times it happens. After a while, we know we had the money but when no one “admits” to having taken it, we are suspicious but can’t really believe one of our children would steal from us so we kind of let it go. As their addiction grows, jewelry, silver, computers, phones, and other pawnable items begin to disappear as they need to get additional cash to support their addiction. And this is why they eventually turn to heroin. It is cheaper. It is far more addictive. It is scary. And heroin addiction happens everyday to darling children from lovely families like mine and yours.
If your loved one is showing any of the above signs I can’t encourage you strongly enough to see it early. Don’t pretend this isn’t happening or deny it is possible. Seek professional help for yourself in order to learn more about addiction and what you can do to potentially change the outcome for the person with the problem, for you, and for your family. We almost always recommend home drug screening, but it is important to do it the right way. Click here to get our guide on how to do HOME DRUG SCREENING. Dealing with addiction almost always calls for parenting changes and having to learn what that means can be the difference in life or death. There is help and there is hope but you have to be willing to recognize you have a problem and then be willing to seek advice, guidance, and knowledge. It takes a lot of humility to admit you need help but if you want your loved one to ultimately do so then it helps for you to model it by doing so yourself.