How Opioid Addiction Occurs

Opioid use - even short term - can lead to addiction and, too often, overdose. Learn how temporary pain relief can lead to serious health problems.

Anyone who takes opioids is at risk of developing addiction. While your personal history and how long you have used opioids can play an important role in developing addiction, it is impossible to know who will be most vulnerable to dependence and abuse. These drugs account for most overdose deaths in America today, whether legal or illegal. They can be stolen, shared and even stolen.

Addiction is a condition in which something that started as pleasurable now feels like something you can't live without. Doctors define drug addiction as an irresistible craving for a drug, out-of-control and compulsive use of the drug, and continued use of the drug despite repeated, harmful consequences. High levels of addiction are due to the powerful reward systems in your brain that Opioids activate.

Endorphins are your brain's happy neurotransmitters. Opioids can trigger this release. The effects of endorphins are temporary and can cause a feeling of great well-being. They reduce your pain perception, increase pleasure feelings, and create a strong sense of well being. After an opioid withdrawal, it is possible to feel strong, happy feelings all over again. This is the first milestone on the path toward potential addiction.

Short-term Versus Long-Term Effects

The body reduces the amount of endorphins it produces when you continue to take opioids for a long time. A single dose of opioids does not trigger the same strong feeling of happiness. Tolerance is what you call it. One reason opioid addiction is so common is that people who develop tolerance may feel driven to increase their doses so they can keep feeling good.

Today's doctors are well aware of the opioid risk and it can be difficult for them to adjust your dosage or renew your prescription. Many opioid addicts believe that they have a greater need for opioids and turn to illegally obtaining opioids or heroin. Fentanyl, Duragesic and Fentora are all illegally obtained opioids. They may contain contaminants or stronger opioids. This particular combination is associated with significant deaths among heroin users due to its potency.

Talk to your doctor about reducing the tolerance you may have to opioids. Other, safer options are available that can assist you in making a positive change. Stop taking opioids without talking to your doctor. Stopping opioid medication abruptly could cause serious side effects. This includes pain that is worse than before. Talk to your doctor about safe and gradual withdrawal from opioids.

Opioid Addiction Risk Factors

You can become addicted to opioids if you use methods other than what is prescribed. The risk of a fatal overdose is greater if you take long-acting or extended-acting pills. An accidental overdose could occur if the medication is delivered too quickly to your body. Your risk of becoming addicted increases if you take more opioid medication than the prescribed dosage or do so more frequently than is prescribed.

It also matters how long you have been using prescribed opioids. Researchers have found that taking opioid medications for more than a few days increases your risk of long-term use, which increases your risk of addiction. Five days after you start a course of opioids, your chances of being still on them a year later increase.

A number of additional factors - genetic, psychological and environmental - play a role in addiction, which can happen quickly or after many years of opioid use.

Known risk factors of opioid misuse and addiction include:

In addition, women have a unique set of risk factors for opioid addiction. Chronic pain is more common in women than it is for men. Women are more likely than men to receive opioid medication, in higher dosages, and for longer durations. There may be a natural tendency for women to depend more on opioid pain relievers than do men.

Steps To Prevent Opioid Addiction

For acute pain management, opioids are safer if they're used for 3 or less days. This is especially true if the pain follows surgery or bone fracture. Talk to your doctor if you require opioids for severe pain. Make sure that the prescribed dose is the lowest possible and the longest time.

Long-term opioid treatment is not recommended for people suffering from chronic pain. Other options are also available such as less addictive medications or nonpharmacological treatments. You should try to find a plan that will allow you to continue living your life, without the use of opioids.

You can help prevent your loved ones and communities from becoming addicted by ensuring that you take care of opioid medications and properly disposing off any remaining opioids. To learn more about the local drug takeback program, please contact your local police department, trash and recycling services, or Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). For assistance if a takeback program is not available, contact your pharmacist.

The most important step you can take to prevent opioid addiction? You must recognize the fact that there is no safe place and that everyone can play an important role in helping to end the dependence on opioids.

Vivien Williams: The face of addiction is changing. The addiction that once was confined to the dark corners of despair is now affecting our families, friends and coworkers. More people are addicted to opioid painkillers than ever before.

Mike Hooten, M.D. (Anesthesiology Mayo Clinic): My belief is that the context in which opioids can be administered has drastically changed over the last 20 years.

Vivien William: Mayo Clinic pain specialist Dr. Michael Hooten believes that this is both good and evil. It is possible to find relief for severe pain but it's also possible to obtain prescriptions to opioids. However, less addictive options like ibuprofen might work as well.

Mike Hooten, M.D. : If they are predisposed to develop addiction, either neurobiologically or from a behavioral perspective, then all of a sudden, we are selecting the individuals who may go on to have long-term problems.

Vivien Williams: And with addiction comes the possibility of accidental overdose. Overdoses resulting from opioids kill 78 Americans every day.

Vivien Williams: Dr. Hooten believes that educating the public about opioid misuse is an important part of managing this crisis. Vivien Wilkins is the Mayo Clinic News Network's Vivien.

Vivien Williams: Opioid painkiller addiction can destroy lives. The CDC reported that 2 million Americans were addicted to or abused painkillers in 2014.

Mike Hooten, M.D. (Anesthesiology Mayo Clinic): Recognizing that you have a problem is the first and most important step.

Vivien William: Mayo Clinic pain specialist Dr. Mike Hooten suggests that you talk with the doctor who prescribed your medication.

Michael Hooten, M.D. You can taper the medication under medical guidance and, if necessary, you can also introduce other pain treatments. And, finally, you need to be referred to the appropriate addiction specialist.

Vivien Williams: It is difficult to get off opioids, Dr. Hooten said. But, unlike alcohol withdrawal, which can be life threatening, ...

Michael Hooten, M.D. Acute opioid withdrawal (AOP) is not a lethal condition. While it can be very painful, it does not always lead to death.

Vivien Williams: Every day 78 people die from an opioid overdose. Experts urge anyone who is addicted to get help. This can save your life.