Opioid addiction is a chronic disease characterized by compulsive urges to use opioid drugs, even when they are no longer medically required. The reason these urges are so powerful is that opioids act in the nervous system to produce intense feelings of pleasure and pain relief.
In 2018, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published data that showed that more than 100 people in the U.S. die after overdosing on opioids every day. The addiction to opioids — including heroin, prescription pain killers and synthetic opioids like fentanyl — is considered a national crisis.
Several factors can lead to opioid addiction, and some people can become addicted to opioids commonly prescribed for medical reasons. So how does opioid addiction occur and what are ways to avoid becoming addicted to opioids? Below, we outline five common causes of opioid addiction as well as steps you can take to prevent opioid abuse.
Causes of Opioid Addiction
The truth is, any individual who takes opioids is at risk of developing an addiction. While the length of time you use opioids and your personal history play a role in your likelihood of developing an opioid addiction, it’s not possible to predict who’s susceptible to eventual abuse of these drugs.
Five factors that can lead to opioid addiction and misuse include:
- Personal or family history of substance abuse
- History of severe anxiety or depression
- Prior drug or alcohol rehabilitation
How Opioid Addiction Occurs: Most Common Reasons for the Misuse of Prescription Opioids
According to the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 11.5 million adults in the U.S. misused prescription pain relievers — including opioids such as Vicodin®, Percocet®, OxyContin® and morphine — at least once in the past year. This population was asked to report the main reason for their most recent pain reliever misuse.
The top reasons for respondents’ misuse of prescription pain relievers, including opioids, were, in order from most to least common:
- To relieve physical pain
- To feel good or get high
- To relieve tension or relax
- To help with sleep
- To help with emotions or feelings
- Because they had to have the drug or were “hooked”
- To experiment
- To increase or decrease the effects of other drugs
- For some other reason
Relationship Between Prescription Opioid Abuse and Increases in Heroin Use in the U.S.
Prescription opioids and heroin are all part of the same opioid drug category and overlap in essential ways. Current research confirms:
- Heroin use is rare in prescription drug users.
- Prescription opioid use is a risk factor for heroin use.
- Prescription opioids and heroin have different risk factors but similar effects.
- Its high availability and low cost augment heroin use.
- Increased availability of opioids drugs is associated with increased overdose and use.
Can I Become Addicted to Opioids?
If you’re wondering if you can become addicted to opioids, know that opioid pain relievers are generally safe when taken as prescribed and for a short period.
However, because opioids are known to produce euphoria in addition to pain relief, they may be misused. Even when taken according to directions, opioids may lead to interactions with other medications and substances as well as dependence.
How to Avoid Becoming Addicted to Opioids
If you are concerned about becoming addicted to opioids, try discussing your worries with your doctor or medical professional. In instances where you are experiencing intense pain, know there are a few non-opioid options that could help. Talk to your doctor about pain relief alternatives.
Other actions you can take to avoid becoming addicted to opioids include:
- Avoid opioids if you have a history of addiction.
- Discuss your other medications with your doctor.
- Only take opioids for as long as necessary.
- Only take opioid medication that is prescribed to you and not someone else’s.
- Follow all prescription guidelines.
- Take the medication as directed and do not crush pills.
- Do not take opioids with alcohol.
- Follow up with your physician as directed.
- Make sure you understand the signs of an overdose.
- Ask your pharmacist about other drugs that may interact with your opioid prescription.
Contact Your Local MedMark Treatment Center If You or a Loved One Has Become Addicted to Opioids
MedMark Treatment Centers specializes in medication-assisted treatment, or MAT, for opioid use disorder. Medication-assisted treatment aims to satisfy the brain’s need for extra opioids and slowly reduce its reliance on the drugs over time.
For over 50 years, MedMark Treatment Centers has used MAT medications such as buprenorphine and methadone to activate the body’s opiate receptors and block the effects of opiate drugs, thus discouraging patients from using them. MAT at our treatment centers across the U.S. includes counseling to help patients learn coping skills for overcoming the stress involved with recovery and withdrawal.
Our team is committed to giving you the care you need throughout treatment and recovery from addiction so that you can live a more fulfilling life. Addiction does not define you and help is available.
If you suspect you or a loved one has become addicted to opioids or would like more information on how to avoid becoming addicted to opioids, don’t hesitate to reach out to a MedMark Treatment Centers representative. Or, find a clinic near you to start the path to recovery today.