What to Do If Your Friends Use Opioids

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May 28, 2021

If your friends use opioids, you’re right to be concerned. Opioid abuse is a serious problem that can not only cause addiction, but can also lead to overdose and death. Having a friend who uses opioids can be stressful and emotionally draining, and you might not know what to do to help. While your friend is ultimately responsible for admitting they have a problem and want to seek help, there are steps you can take to help a friend using drugs and, hopefully, encourage them to seek treatment.

Dangers of Opioid Abusefriends using opioids

Being aware of the signs and dangers of opioid use can help you understand what your friend is going through. Opioid use disorder is the diagnostic term used for opioid addiction. It means that a person is no longer able to control their opioid use and they continue to use the drugs despite the negative consequences it has on their lives. Keep in mind that addiction is not a choice, it is a brain disease, and a person cannot usually just stop abusing drugs through willpower alone.

Some of the signs you might notice in a friend using opioids include:

  • Being unable to cut down or stop using.
  • Problems at work or school because of drug use.
  • Problems in their relationships because of drug use.
  • Needing to take higher or more frequent doses of opioids to feel the same way.
  • Seeming depressed or anxious.
  • Appearing irritable or have mood swings.
  • Having cravings, or strong urges to use opioids.

Opioid abuse can cause many dangers. Overdose is of the biggest risks of opioid abuse. Between 1999 and 2019, nearly 500,000 people died due to opioid overdose, so know that your concerns about your friend’s opioid use are completely justified, even if they don’t think it’s a big deal.

Overdose can cause signs such as:

  • Slowed breathing.
  • A pale face or clammy skin.
  • A limp body.
  • Blue or purple fingers and fingernails.
  • Vomiting or gurgling noises.
  • Loss of consciousness or fading in and out of consciousness.
  • Stopped breathing or heartbeat.

Overdose is a medical emergency. If you think your friend has overdosed, don’t leave them alone and call 911 right away.

Ways to Help Your Friend

Although your friend needs to be ready to seek help, that doesn’t mean you need to just stand by in the meantime. Here are some tips on how to best support your friend and (possibly) help them seek treatment.

  1. Share your concern — this alone can be helpful, even if they don’t want to talk about it. Avoid accusing, hassling, blaming, or giving them ultimatums. Talk to them when you’re both sober and calm and when you have enough time for a quiet conversation.
  2. Remember to use kind, supportive language when you talk about the problem. Using “I” statements can help, so you could say something like, “I am concerned about your drug use.”
  3. Tell them the signs you observe. You might say, “I’m worried because I’ve noticed that you’ve been calling in sick to work more often,” or, “I’m concerned because I’ve noticed that you’re spending all day in bed.” Talk about the effects their drug use has on friends and family; they might not care about how their drug use is affecting them, but they may care about the impact it has on their loved ones.
  4. Reach out to a professional for advice on how to approach your friend, especially if you’re concerned that they are suicidal or they might overdose.
  5. Let them know that you’re willing to help them find treatment when they’re ready to do so.

Help Them Find Treatment

The first step can be to encourage them to have a conversation with their doctor, who can evaluate the severity of the problem and suggest the right course of treatment. You can even volunteer to accompany them to the appointment to provide support. In addition, you can research opioid addiction treatment centers online, look up rehabs in your area on the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s treatment finder website, or call American Addiction Center’s 24/7, free and confidential helpline.

When your friend is ready, American Addiction Centers is here to help your friend overcome opioid addiction. We have treatment facilities across the country that can help your friend start the path to recovery.

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