The Dangers Of Opiate Abuse And Addiction

Opioids are highly addictive, and opioid abuse has become a national crisis in the United States. Statistics highlight the severity of the epidemic, with the National Institute on Drug Abuse reporting that more than 2 million Americans abuse opioids and that more than 90 Americans die by opioid overdose every day, on average.

What are the signs of an addiction?

  • Mixing with different groups of people or changing friends
  • Spending time alone and avoiding time with family and friends
  • Losing interest in activities
  • Not bathing, changing clothes or brushing their teeth
  • Being very tired and sad
  • Eating more or less than usual
  • Being overly energetic, talking fast and saying things that don’t make sense
  • Being nervous or cranky
  • Quickly changing moods
  • Sleeping at odd hours
  • Missing important appointments
  • Getting into trouble with the law
  • Attending work or school on an erratic schedule
  • Experiencing financial hardship

Watch Shirley’s True Story Battle with Opiates

Ever since she took that first hit of Marijuana at the age of 11, drugs have given Shirley a sense of belonging. Being from an immigrant family, until that moment, she never felt quiet like she fit in anywhere.

“This was back in the 70’s, everybody was smoking pot. That helped me find a niche of people that I belonged to,” Shirley explained.

Her boyfriend at the time used Hydrocodone and Codeine. He used to send her into the pharmacy to get Terpin Hydrate, a cough syrup that is now banned but at the time could be bought as long as you signed for it.

The Addiction

During her addiction Shirley went from Heroin to pills and back to Heroin.

“Pills cost you $4 or $5 apiece and I would need 6, 7, 8 of them at a time, three times a day. That’s a lot money when Heroin is $25 a bag and that would last four hours,” she said.

While she was using pills she was getting 80 OxyContin and 240 Lortab a month from her doctor for pain. Even that was not enough so feed her addiction.

“I used to go to my pharmacist and tell her ‘I have a doctor appointment and he’s going to check my bottle and I need like 5 pills to put in my bottle to show the doctor that I’m taking them the way I’m supposed to be, you can just take them from my refill when I get it’ and she would do it.”

Getting drugs, making the doctor appointments, talking to pharmacists, making sure she was coherent enough to sit in the office, became a full-time job.

“Thank God for Crack Cocaine. I started using that and within three months … I had no life.”

Shirley explained the steep downhill spiral that began after using Crack Cocaine, she lost her husband of 30 years, her house and was no longer capable of driving.


Her husband’s family decided that she was the source of his drug problems and with no warning came to get him.

“I was in jail. I was out in 6 hours. Within those 6 hours they came, picked him up and took him to where they live. I got home and he was gone, no note, no phone call, nothing.”

A couple of days later his family called and said that they were going to take care of him and let her family take care of her.

Her moment of clarity came when he started calling her to send him drugs in the mail.

“That’s a federal offence, I had already been to jail a couple of times and I was not willing to do that,” Shirley explained that even after that she was still using, “I couldn’t get up anymore without it … I needed something to get up, I needed something to stay up, I needed something to go to sleep, I needed something to stay asleep. That was my like, drugs dictated every part of my being.”

After a hert to heart with her brother, he agreed to fly out to her and drive her and her car from Indiana to Arizona. They made plans to make this trip after the next time Shirley got paid.

“(Before he got there) I spent the whole check … $3,800 on drugs.”

She knew in her heart that even if she told her brother that she had spent the gas money before he got there that he would still come but the fear of him telling her that he would wait until she got paid again stopped her from saying anything.

She knew that if she had to wait until the next check, she would be dead.

When he got to the airport and asked her how much she had for gas, she told him she only had $20. While he was upset that she hadn’t told him before he left, Shirley explained to him her reasoning and off to Arizona they went.

While she was staying at her brother’s house, their other brother, who was a cooker came out as well.

“An addict and a cooker together is not a good mix. He found out where to get drugs and I had a little money so it was on again,” she said.

Shirley’s brother was sent back to jail after breaking probation, it was at this point that she started stealing money from her sister to pay for her habit.

It still wasn’t enough, “I’m fighting with drug dealers that have guns on their hips,” she explained, “There is no good reason on God’s green Earth I should still be alive.”


Shirley says that after getting treatment her life isn’t perfect but she is extremely happy.

“I got it from going to rehab, that’s what worked for me,” Shirley has advice for people who might be having a hard time finding sobriety, “If they want what I have, I suggest they start there.”

Rehab taught her that it was not her fault, addiction is a strong chemical reaction in the brain.

“Somewhere along the line the drug you find clicks and (your brain) says ‘this is the answer to all my problems.’”

Shirley believes that addiction doesn’t happen because of pressure or being prescribed medication. It starts in the brain because it sees the drug as the solution.

That’s why she continued to use “It fixed me until it didn’t fix me anymore.”

She equates rehab to the place that you start your life, “not fix your life. Because most of the people I’ve met that are using and are broken … don’t need to repair the life they had, they need to find a new way of living.”

Going to rehab gave her just that, “I’m not looking in the rearview mirror for a cop. I’m not worried about (drug) testing or my kids being taken away, I have a happy life.”

  1. I appreciate Shirley sharing her story. Honestly I think we can take more from an individual story like this than from all the textbooks or newspaper articles in the world telling us how drugs can ruin lives. I’m glad that Shirley was able to hang in there long enough to get to rehab and get clean. Her example is inspiring.

  2. I’m so glad this story had a happy ending. Shirley really was on the edge and it’s remarkable and inspiring that she managed to turn her life around. I’m quite shocked that the pharmacist agreed to help her by giving her more pills. Is this allowed? Surely he or she was being irresponsible.

  3. I pretty much have an addiction as well . I am aware that this is about substance abuse or to be precise it shows classic signs of opiate addiction. However speaking of signs I feel that a good number on that list can apply elsewhere too. Like mood swings for example tied and sad?For all we know that is due to a bad bay ha ha.

  4. This is really an opener to many things, with this physical signs of opiate use, I think it will be easy now. Also thanks for the life story, really fantastic

  5. Wow, opiate addicts behavior looks like things one can easily notice in an addict. Full of supprise to see some legal drugs misused. Thanks for this

  6. physical signs of opiate use incide Spending time alone and avoiding time with family and friends. The abuse should be checked and stopped.

  7. I thanks the lady for the detailed information. She has well outlined how opiate addicts behavior looks like. It should be a thing to avoid completely.

  8. It´s important to see the things of addiction on time to help our beloved ones to deal with the condition. Not only the physical changes but the opiate addicts behavior detected on time could save him/her from turning life into a nightmare.

  9. I hope that this site will be properly published. Such interview can give people an insight to what a person who is dependent on drugs feel. Sometimes, those person do want to stop such addiction but because they are very much dependent on drugs, their body is in fact looking for it. Such interview can give us an idea of an opiate addicts behavior and thus making us more aware of our family’s own behavior.

  10. opiate addicts behavior when detected early should be treated immediately. But most importantly it will be better to stay away from drugs. I don’t think we gain from drug abuse.

  11. Some of the classic signs of opiate addiction, such as drowsiness and increased isolation, may be difficult to spot at first glance. However, when financial difficulties show up, that’s probably where the dominoes start falling.

    As Shirley has mentioned, stealing or misusing money from family members just to get the next hit or “high”, is something that really drags you downward into the spiral of drug abuse, and going to rehab alone won’t be enough unless you really want to make a fresh start in life and change your life for the better.

    It takes a lot of courage to do that, honestly. And it’s a fortunate thing that Shirley managed to get out of the cycle of drug abuse, too.

  12. Thanks for this article and outlining the signs of opiate use in adults. This is very beneficial from a protective standpoint for friends, family and loved ones. Some on these symptoms can very well be misinterpreted as minor, but can be warnings signs to bigger problems. So although we don’t want to be paranoid, it is important for all of us to be aware.

  13. We should be on the lookout for signs of opiate use in adults. Sometimes a person may seem okay on the outside but they are going through a lot.

  14. One of the classic signs of opiate addiction is a drastic change in a person’s lifestyle. They tend to stop doing things they would normally do.

  15. Whenever someone shows signs of opiate use in adults they should be signed up for rehab immediately. It’s the only way to save their lives.

  16. Opiate addicts behavior can be harmful to both the addict and those around them. This underpins just how important to help the affected get help.

  17. Looking at Shirley, she physically has the classic signs of opiate addiction. It’s a good thing she eventually managed to get over her addiction.

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