Understanding How Opioid Addiction Occurs

Virtually everyone has heard about the opioid crisis in the United States. You probably know that many people have become addicted and their lives have been thrown into chaos. Some people have even died. What you may not know is exactly how opioid addiction develops. In this article, we’ll provide you with a basic overview of the things you need to know. If you believe you or a loved one has developed a substance abuse problem, you need to seek treatment for opioid abuse.

What Are Opioids?

To ensure we’re on the same page, let’s discuss what opioids are. Opioids are a type of drug. They are also known as narcotics and they include prescription pain relievers like fentanyl, hydrocodone, and oxycodone. Heroin, which is illegal, is also an opioid. While some narcotics are made from the opium plants, others are synthetic.

Doctors often prescribe opioids after surgery or serious injuries. They can also be prescribed for chronic pain or pain resulting from diseases like cancer. While opioids are effective in offering pain relief, anyone who uses them is at risk of addiction. Individual characteristics and the length of time an individual takes the drugs to play a role. However, anyone can become dependent.

What is Addiction?

Addiction refers to an irresistible craving for a drug along with compulsive use and continued use despite the harmful effects. The substance which brought pleasurable effects, in the beginning, becomes something the user can’t live without. Opioids release endorphins in the brain and these reduce pain and promote pleasure. For a while, you may experience a strong sense of well-being. However, when the feeling wears off, some people find themselves wanting the feeling to come back as soon as possible. If they give in, this can be the first step towards addiction.

What Happens When Users Get Addicted?

When you take opioids repeatedly, your body slows down the production of endorphins over time. The dose which made you feel really good before may have little to no effect now. This is known as tolerance. Opioid addiction is common because people who develop tolerance feel the need to take larger doses. This is the only way they can achieve the feeling they got in the beginning.

In the past, people would go back to their doctors to ask for a stronger prescription. However, doctors today are reluctant to over-prescribe. Some users find illegal ways to get the drugs they want. They may purchase prescription drugs off the street or turn to heroin. Some black-market opioids like fentanyl are laced with contaminants or stronger opioids. Because fentanyl is already quite strong, these illegally obtained varieties can lead to death.

If you’ve been taking prescribed opioids and you’ve developed tolerance, talk to your doctor. They can help you to manage your pain without increasing your dosage. Quitting your medication abruptly can cause serious side effects and make the pain worse. It’s best to see a doctor who can gradually take you off the drug.

Risk Factors for Opioid Addiction

Narcotics are most addictive when you take them in ways they weren’t intended. For example, some people crush opioid pills and snort or inject them instead of taking them orally. Not only does this increase the likelihood of addiction but it can be very dangerous. Some pills are designed to slowly release over time. Absorbing all the medication at once can cause an overdose. Taking more than the prescribed amount or taking doses more frequently than recommended also increases the risk of addiction.

Taking opioids for more than a few days also makes you more prone to developing a substance abuse problem. If you take opioids for just five days, the chances increase that you’ll still be using them a year later. Long-term use increases your risk of addiction.

Environmental, genetic, and psychological factors also play a role in addiction. Common contributors to misuse and addiction include:

  • Personal history of substance abuse
  • Family history of substance abuse
  • Poverty
  • Youth
  • History of criminal activity
  • Mental disorders
  • Thrill-seeking behavior
  • Unemployment

Women can also be more vulnerable. They are more likely to have chronic pain and doctors are more likely to prescribe them opioids. Women also tend to be given higher doses and to use narcotics for longer periods. Also, women may have a biological predisposition to becoming dependent on prescription opioids more quickly than men.

Contact Asheville Recovery Center For Treatment For Opioid Abuse

If you need treatment for opioid abuse in Asheville, NC, reach out to our highly-trained team. We offer a range of treatment programs that can be customized to meet your individual needs. Schedule a consultation today to benefit from our experience with treating substance abuse disorders.

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