More than 130 million people and two-thirds of adults in the United States regularly use prescription drugs. A recent string of lawsuits against Purdue Pharma resulted in their bankruptcy declaration largely due to the cost associated with the settlements.

The federal government also filed criminal charges against Purdue for advertising their drug OxyContin as a safer and less addictive alternative than other prescription opioids. Purdue and many of their executives pleaded guilty to all charges.

It can be surprising to many that medication prescribed by a doctor can be unsafe, and very addictive. It is a common misconception that “If my doctor told me to take it, it must be OK.”

This is objectively untrue, as nearly 50,000 people in the United States died of prescription opioid abuse in 2018. If the number of people who eventually transitioned to illicit drugs were added, this number would surely be much higher.

With companies like Purdue facing criminal charges, it is harder than ever for someone to continue to be prescribed traditional pain medication like opioids. Because of this, it is crucial you keep an eye on any family member(s) who have struggled with substance abuse in the past, or those who are extremely dependent on pain medication.

A watchful eye and the concern of loved ones may keep these people from falling victim to illicit drugs like heroin and fentanyl.

For this reason, we want to take this time to remind families to keep a lookout for the following signs of drug use:

■ Money issues, asking to borrow money

■ Poor hygiene

■ Stories that don’t make sense

■ Erratic behavior

■ Small drug containers, ripped balloons, button bags and tinfoil.

■ Drug paraphernalia

■ Strange burnt smells

■ Needle marks on arms and other parts of the body

■ Accelerated weight gain or loss

■ Strange looking eyes

■ Irregular looking eyes

■ Irregular breathing or heartbeat

For more information on the prescription drug epidemic, please visit:

Keep in mind substances affect people differently, and one sign may not mean the person is abusing drugs or involved with the drug you think they are. If you find your loved one is exhibiting several of the signs above, there is a good chance they are abusing drugs. Do not go into denial or write this off as coincidence.

The only way to be sure a loved one is or is not using drugs is a drug test. These can be ordered online or bought at your local drug store. Make sure to buy a 12-panel test. The number 12 indicates the number of substance categories tested. If you are going to test them, make sure they do not dilute the sample or use fake or someone else’s urine. Many tests contain an indicator that will show if your loved one has cheated or manipulated the test in some way.

For more information you can also read this on how to confront your loved one for a drug test:

Many drug and alcohol treatment centers are essential businesses that have remained open since the beginning of the pandemic. If you find your loved one is abusing drugs, reach out to find them help. If you don’t know where to start, give us a call. Our staff are available 24-7 to help you find a treatment center that works for you.

For more information on signs of drug abuse visit: Call Narconon at (800) 431-1754 for free screenings or referrals.

Caleb Hughes works for Narconon, a 501(c)3 corporation.