The American Medical Association (AMA) states that opioid-related deaths have increased in 40 states during the Covid-19 pandemic. The recent and imminent release of vaccines puts us on the path to ending the pandemic, but we still have a long way to go before we are out of the woods.
Not only has the pandemic exacerbated the rise of opioid misuse, but this is the time of year when people are more susceptible to bouts of depression and even more likely to turn to drugs as an escape.
So, it remains imperative to keep vigilant about signs of possible Opioid Use Disorder (OUD) or Substance Use Disorder (SUD) for yourself or your loved ones. Some of these signs include:
Changes in behavior
Something seems like it’s just not right. The person is acting differently.
- Erratic behavior
- Sudden mood swings and changes in energy level
- Being defensive
- Playing the blame game
- Sudden lack of self-care and motivation
- Nervousness or anxiety
- Being secretive and or isolated
- Unreliability, such as not showing up for events and not meeting obligations
- Doctor Shopping – accessing multiple healthcare providers, claiming to have lost a prescription or need another one filled
Opioid use can change a person physically and take a toll on the body.
- Noticeable weight loss or gain
- Increases or decreases in sexual desire
- Slower breathing
- Flushed skin
- Needle marks or scarring
- Decreased appetite
You might be finding paraphernalia such as:
- Medication bottles with labels removed
- Burned tinfoil
- Bloodied cotton swabs
- Hose clamps
- Bent spoons
- Rolled up dollar bills
“Since this is a time of high-stress, sometimes families, loved ones and friends may dismiss warning signs or not see them for what they are. If you are concerned that there may be more going on, don’t hesitate to contact us and ask to speak to a professional about your concerns,” states Kerry Larson, LCSW, CADC, CODP-I, Program Director for Symetria Recovery.
If you are noticing these signs and others with someone you love, you are likely to be experiencing changes in your own thoughts or behaviors. Maybe you find yourself worrying a lot about your loved one or making excuses for your loved one’s behavior. Maybe you find your self disengaging from your loved one to avoid mood swings and confrontations.
The good news is that, in light of the pandemic, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) has relaxed the some of the restrictions regarding the distribution of buprenorphine, the drug commonly used in Medication Assisted Treatment for OUD. Registered medical facilities are able to issue prescriptions for buprenorphine based on telemedicine sessions. So, if you can’t make it to a facility in person, you can have an online session and receive your prescription.
Ann Marie Fauske