Understanding Opioid Addiction


Opioids, also known as opiates, are a group of drugs such as the illicit heroin, legal prescription medicines such as codeine, morphine, hydrocodone, oxycodone, synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, and many others. Opiates are mainly used as pain relievers, but the can also be very addictive. Usually, opiate addiction begins by using prescription pain relievers. When used as prescribed, these medications can be very effective. However, misusing or overusing them can lead to addiction. In the absence of the prescription drugs, some people decide to turn to the cheaper alternative—heroin. Apart from relieving pain, opiates also produce a strong feeling of euphoria.


Opiates work by blocking the brain’s opioid receptors, causing a decrease in the perception of pain. They can also interfere with the brain’s reward system. In the US, drug overdose is the primary cause of accidental deaths, and in 2015 alone, about 53,000 lethal drug overdoses occurred.


Addiction is a Disease


Opioid addiction is classified as a chronic brain disease since it is accompanied by an underlying, long-term change in the structure and biological functioning of the brain. Although the initial choice to use opioids may be voluntary, once addiction to these drugs kicks in, abuse of the drugs becomes compulsive. Even though drug taking can be temporarily controlled, the craving cannot be controlled or shut off. It is the tenacity of the abnormal cravings that signify that addiction is a chronic condition.


Signs and Symptoms of Opiate Addiction


When used for a short period under the supervision of a qualified doctor, opiate medications are safe to use. However, with the increased opiate addictions, many physicians prefer non-opioid medications and substitute approaches to pain relief. Without professional intervention and treatment, it can be difficult to overcome opioid addiction or dependence once it sets in. The body and brain continue to crave for more of the drug, and you end up feeling as though you cannot function without it.


Understanding the signs and symptoms of opioid addiction is crucial in detecting potential problems before they escalate in severity. One of the most prominent signs is the development of drug tolerance. It needs you to take higher doses of the drug quite often to achieve the same “high.” Here are other indicators of opioid addiction:


  • Severe mood swings
  • Constipation
  • Nausea
  • Poor coordination
  • Poor concentration
  • Confusion
  • insomnia
  • Slowed breathing


Opioid Withdrawal Symptoms


Another primary reason opiate addiction is difficult to overcome is the withdrawal symptoms. It can be quite an unpleasant and uncomfortable experience. Usually, people will relapse to taking the drugs just to ease the withdrawal and cope with the symptoms of addiction. Thus, during the detoxification process, most drug treatment centers strive to offer their clients a safe and comfortable environment where they can start the healing process and enhance recovery by eliminating the addictive substances from their bodies. Some of the opiate withdrawal symptoms include:


  • Vomiting
  • Sweating
  • Muscle pain
  • Restlessness
  • Insomnia
  • Diarrhea


The good news is the opioid addiction is treatable. If you or your loved one is suffering due to opioid tolerance and addiction, find a qualified medical practitioner near you for advice and treatment options.