It can be difficult to determine if the person is young, said clinical social worker Elizabeth R. Anderson, program manager for in-home therapy and therapeutic mentoring for West Springfield-based Center for Human Development.
“Many of its signs (like new peer groups, mood changes, or increased distance from parents) can look a lot like fairly normative adolescent behaviors or mental health conditions that commonly begin in adolescence and young adulthood,” Anderson said.
“When multiple signs are present across categories, there is more likely to be cause for concern and need for greater assessment,” Anderson said.
CHD offers a an array of social and mental health services, including adolescent treatment, to both individuals and families in Western Massachusetts and Connecticut.
Anderson offered the following advice for those trying to determine if someone is opioid dependent. In addition, she provided five tips on how to help and what to avoid.
Physical appearance: Significant, unexplained weight loss; thin, withdrawn face or appearing tired or sick; wearing long sleeves in warm weather to disguise injection sites; frequently constricted pupils; itching face and/or body
Medical signs and symptoms: Unexplained injuries to arms or hands (from use of needles); pain or bleeding from the nose (if substance is “snorted” or taken intranasally); frequent, unexplained episodes of fatigue and stomach upset (from withdrawal) that resolve very quickly; constipation
Behavioral signs: Increased isolation; poorer physical hygiene; being away from home or work for long periods of time without explanation or longer than initially expected; being fired from jobs or dropping out of school; having a new peer group; lying about money or whereabouts; global decrease in functioning; running out of prescribed opioids before prescription should be renewed or frequently reporting them lost or stolen; finding drug paraphernalia (straws, syringes, remnants of crushed pills, rolled dollar bills, spoons with burn marks)
Social and psychological signs and symptoms: Increased irritability, mood swings, anxiety, periods of euphoria, ending or having difficulty in multiple important relationships
Ways to help someone with substance dependence:
- Calmly and nonjudgmentally explain your observations and express concern for the person’s well-being.
- Offer to assist the person in obtaining treatment or accompany them to a 12-step or other recovery meeting.
- Learn the difference between helping and enabling. Help means getting someone away from substance dependence, not avoiding arguments or paying bills that the person cannot pay.
- Learn about substance abuse, especially the frequent occurrence of relapse into dependence. Work to respond in non-emotionally reactive ways when a person relapses
- Get nasal Narcan and keep it in your home. It can save a life in case of an opioid overdose.
Things to not do when you suspect someone is substance dependent:
- Do not blame, criticize or belittle yourself or the person who is substance dependent.
- Do not wait until things get “bad enough” to seek treatment. If you know someone has a dependence on a substance, do not wait until they overdose or are arrested to advise them to seek help.
- Do not forget to take care of yourself. Find your own treatment or join Al-Anon or another support group.
- Do not offer to give a person who is substance dependent money to buy drugs, or buy drugs for them. If they are in withdrawal offer to bring them to treatment instead.
- Do not try to argue or confront the person when they are under the influence.
5 Signs of Addiction and what to do when you see them – Article by Anne-Gerard Flynn
Appeared on masslive.com on June 7, 2015