Came across this piece in a Tennessee outlet, about the rampant rise in prescription opiate addiction. The story contained the stunning suggestion that DEA agents and doctors could learn a lot from interviewing former addicts.

I keep waiting for the stellar journalist who thinks to accomplish this simple task. I swear, it would have made this particular story 200 percent better. Because right after the WVU doctor suggested talking to addicts, the Tennessee doctor lists a bunch of “warning signs if you think someone might be addicted to or abusing prescription drugs” [see my edits]:

• Repetitive filling. Patzer [the Tennessee doctor] said some dependents or addicts could continue to refill their medications even though they might be free of pain symptoms. [Someone ought to warn the DEA.]

• Using it up too fast. A patient becoming dependent or addicted could begin to will always use the prescribed amount faster than directed by the doctor, Patzer said.

• Alcohol pairing. Taking the medication while drinking alcohol or smoking pot or even cigarettes could also be an indicator of abuse or addiction.

• Looking lethargic. If the patient seems over sedated, it could be is a sign of taking too much [when you take an opiate “as prescribed,” you don’t nod off]. Patzer said, though, that some addicts actually seem energized despite taking depressants.

These are clues from the physician’s point of view. What wife can tell whether her husband is “filling repetitively” or “using it up too fast”?

If I were asked to add a few clues, I would give these:

• Does she talk too fast? Opiates in particular, in high doses, speed up the speech and make a normally shy person more gregarious. This is the Superwoman aspect of opiates, well-known among addicts.

• Does he jump up and down through supper? Opiates destroy the appetite. If he can’t sit still and eat, and keeps leaving the table, he’s probably sneaking off to use.

• Does she have strange bruises? Opiates skew a person’s sense of balance and dull pain. I used to bang into furniture all the time without even knowing it until I saw the bruise later.

Does she have secret hiding places? If there are spots in the house where she won’t let you go, then that’s where she probably hides her stuff.

I need also to say that some addicts simply don’t understand they’re addicts. Especially those seeking pain relief. For years I sought treatment for two pain conditions, constantly increasing my dose in search of relief, and trying to “function.” I didn’t understand that my desire to “function” at such a high level was itself a compulsion that was part of my addiction.