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What Are the Signs of Opiate Addiction?

Monday, April 25, 2016 1:53 PM

Saturday Night Live touched off a firestorm among mothers of addicts after a recent sketch featured a fake drug commercial for “Heroin AM.” Laura Parise, MD, an addiction psychiatrist at NorthShore, knows all too well that addiction is no laughing matter. Heroin use more than doubled among young adults ages 18-25 in the past decade, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Dr. Parise answers questions about spotting addiction and how to intervene if you suspect someone you love is an addict.


What can we do in our daily lives that would make a difference?

Many teens and young adults start opiate use through easy access to prescribed painkillers in the medicine cabinet at home or at a friend’s or grandparent’s house. If you have been prescribed painkillers or other mood altering pills in the past, dispose of them when you no longer need them. The longer more systemic answer includes having ongoing open communication with your teens/young adults about drug use.

What are signs and symptoms that someone has an opiate addiction?

Be aware of changes in behavior, including acting withdrawn, hostile and frequently exhausted or depressed. Take note of a change in friend groups, carelessness with grooming or grades, missed classes, loss of interest in extra-curricular activities and frequent irritability and conflict in relationships.

When should parents take action and how should they approach their kids if they suspect drug or alcohol use at this age?

Ideally, prior to suspecting any alcohol or other drug use, a parent would have already set clear rules around substance use. This may include clarifying that any substance use will not be tolerated, outlining specific and appropriate consequences for violating this expectation, and consistently enforcing such consequences. Substance abuse is not an issue of moral failing or of “bad kids,” but of health and safety. Approaching suspected drug use from a place of empathy and concern emphasizes this to children. Seek professional help. The Doreen E. Chapman Center offers comprehensive treatment for individuals struggling with substance use disorders at Evanston Hospital.

How do teens typically start abusing heroin or opiates?

The typical profile of today’s heroin abuser is a young adult of middle to upper-middle class background, college bound or enrolled, with a history of marijuana use and other drug use. Teens who are already using substances and have access to prescription painkillers are at the greatest risk for opiate or heroin addiction. Peers groups have a significant impact on heroin abuse.

Are there Federal or State laws that govern how doctors prescribe opiates?

New safety warnings have been added to all prescription opiate medications to inform patients and prescribers about risks related to opiate use. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued guidelines for prescribing opiates for chronic pain, Congress approved funding for prevention and treatment and the US Health and Human Services Administration released a “National Pain Strategy.” According to the FDA opiate addiction and overdose have reached epidemic levels over the past decade.

If you or someone you know is suffering from opiate abuse, contacting someone for help is one of the most important and courageous steps you and your family can take. A clinical staff member will be available to answer any questions you may have about our programs at the Doreen E. Chapman Center. For additional questions, please call 847.570.4633. To schedule a first appointment, please call the Access Center at 847.570.2500 option 2.