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What to Do if Your Friends Use Opioids

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Friendship is often a balancing act.  At times, a friend will do things that result in an argument or hurt feelings.  Most of these incidents are reconciled, and the friendship continues.   But, what should you do if your friend is doing something that could endanger their lives?  For instance, if your friend uses opioids or has an opioid addiction, it puts you in a difficult position.  

Should you intervene and risk losing them as a friend?  Or, remain silent and let your friend suffer the consequences of their behavior? If you’re facing a situation like this, the following information may help you decide the best route to take.

Does Your Friend Have an Opioid Addiction?

Opioid use disorder (OUD) is the diagnostic term for opioid addiction meaning a person is not in control of their opioid use.  The disorder doesn’t always present clear signs, but there are several behaviors that may indicate opioid use problems.  

If you notice your friend behaving in ways that are not typical, it’s normal to feel concerned.  

Here are some behaviors your friend may exhibit with opioid use disorder:

  • Frequent or erratic mood swings.
  • Using opioids in a way not prescribed by their doctor. 
  • Making sure they have a “backup” supply of the drug.
  • Taking opioids even if they aren’t experiencing pain.
  • Inability to cut down or stop their opioid use.
  • Poor performance at school or work.
  • Withdrawal symptoms when the drug is withheld.
  • Disinterested in activities they previously enjoyed.
  • Lying about their opioid use.

Opioid use disorder can lead to severe health problems, risk of overdose, or death.  Did you know that more than 70% of the 841,000 drug overdoses are opioid-related?  According to the CDC, fatal opioid overdoses have increased over six times since 1999.  

How to Help a Friend Who Has Opioid Use Disorder

Whether to reach out to a friend about their opioid use can be a difficult decision to make.  But, it could be a conversation that will save the person’s life.  If you’re unsure about approaching your friend yourself, consider an intervention.  Involving the person’s family and other friends can make a difference.  Regardless of which approach you use, it’s important to avoid being confrontational or judgemental.  

Here are three suggestions for talking to someone about their substance use:

  • Frame your discussion around how their drug use affects you and the friendship you have together.
  • Express your concerns about your friend’s health without lecturing.
  • Plan to have the conversation when your friend is sober.
  • Encourage your friend to seek treatment and talk about the benefits.
  • Don’t make accusations or criticize.
  • Listen and show empathy when your friend expresses emotions or fears.
  • Provide reassurance and support when your friend enters treatment. 

Of course, there is no perfect formula for approaching a friend about substance abuse.  But, one thing that holds true in most cases is that doing nothing ensures nothing gets done.  Imagine seeing your friend become drug-free and living life to the fullest.  If you played a small role in their recovery, it’s a double reward.

Why Should You be Worried About a Friend’s Opioid Abuse?

Recreational use of opioids is far from harmless.  Also, using opioids in combination with other drugs or alcohol increases the risk of adverse consequences.  Repeated abuse of these addictive painkillers can cause a variety of health problems.  Some of the physical damages caused by opioids can be life-threatening.

Opioids work by attaching to receptors in brain cells to alter the perception of pain and pleasure.  Large doses of the drug cause euphoria. Over time, recreational users need more and more of the drug to reach the level of euphoria they desire.  

Other side effects of opioid misuse may include the following:

  • Slow respiration and heart rate.
  • Diarrhea, nausea, vomiting.
  • Anxiety, irritability.
  • Drowsiness.
  • Confusion.
  • Muscle pain.
  • Unconsciousness, coma

Opioid use disorder can affect every aspect of a person’s life.  Using and seeking more of the drug becomes their primary focus.  Some individuals resort to lying, stealing, prostitution, and other illegal means to obtain more of the drug.  Many people have lost their families, jobs, homes, and everything they hold dear in life because of OUD.  So, you are right to be concerned about a friend’s opioid use.  

Help for Opioid Addiction at Design for Change Recovery

Overcoming opioid addiction requires a combination of treatment methods to address all aspects of the disorder.  At Design for Change Recovery, we offer an individualized approach to treatment that focuses on each client’s specific needs.  Our goal is to help a person heal physically, emotionally, and spiritually for long-term recovery.  

Do you have a friend who needs help with opioid addiction?  If so, contact us at our Lancaster, CA facility today.  We know you want the best for your friend or loved one.  So do we.  Our accredited program and compassionate staff provide the exceptional level of care that our clients need and deserve.  With our help, your friend can overcome opioid abuse and enjoy a healthier, purpose-filled life.


What to Do if Your Friends Use Opioids