An opioid addiction is a powerful urge to use certain medicines called opioids. But what are opioids? And what is an addiction?
Opioids are medicines that are often prescribed by a doctor to help relieve pain. An addiction is a strong craving to do something. In this case, it’s a strong craving to use opioids. Addiction is a disease that affects your brain and behavior. At first, you have control over your choice to use opioids. But if you don’t follow your doctor’s instructions for the medicine, its effect eventually makes you want to keep using it. Over time, your brain actually changes so that you develop a powerful urge to take the opioids.
Can be derived from opium poppy or man-made.
Act on opioid receptor in the brain.
Block pain and create feelings of Euphoria.
Opioids work by lowering the number of pain signals your body sends to your brain. They also change how your brain responds to pain. When used correctly, opioids are safe. But when people misuse the medicine (opioid use disorder), they can become addicted. People can also become addicted to opioids by using the drug illegally.
Some opioid drugs include:
- Hydrocodone and oxycodone
- Hydromorphone and oxymorphone
Over 2 million Americans live with opioid addiction yet only 10% receive treatment.
A staggering 68% of all fatal overdoses in the U.S. involve a prescription or illicit opioid.
Among new heroin users, 75% report misusing prescription opioids before trying heroin.
What is addiction?
Addiction is a disease that affects your brain and your behavior. At first, you have control over your choice to start using drugs. If you misuse a drug, its pleasurable effect eventually makes you want to keep using it. Over time, your brain actually changes in certain ways so that you develop a powerful urge to use the drug.
Symptoms of opioid addiction
The first step toward recovery is recognizing that you have a problem with opioids. The signs and symptoms of substance abuse can be physical, behavioral, and psychological. One clear sign of addiction is not being able to stop using the substance. It is also not being able to stop yourself from using more than the recommended amount.
Other signs and symptoms of opioid abuse include:
- poor coordination
- shallow or slow breathing rate
- nausea, vomiting
- physical agitation
- poor decision making
- abandoning responsibilities
- slurred speech
- sleeping more or less than normal
- mood swings
- euphoria (feeling high)
- lowered motivation
- anxiety attacks.
What causes opioid addiction?
Opioid drugs alter your brain by creating artificial endorphins. Besides blocking pain, these endorphins make you feel good. Too much opioid use can cause your brain to rely on these artificial endorphins. Once your brain does this, it can even stop producing its own endorphins. The longer you use opioids, the more likely this is to happen. You also will need more opioids over time because of drug tolerance.
- OPIOID & THE BRAIN: Opioids are highly addictive, in large part because they activate powerful reward centers in the brain.
- OPIOID & THE ENDORPHINS: Opioids use triggers a release of endorphins - the brain's feel-good neurotransmitters. Taken repeatedly, a tolerance develops.
- TOLERANCE LEADS TO AN INCREASE IN DOSAGE & USE: This is the first milestone on the path toward opioid addiction.