Opioid dependence is the stage of addiction when the drug rules your life. How do you know if you or someone you care about is really in opioid dependence, or if you or that person can still manage themselves? Addiction is a disease. There’s no cure, but it is manageable. The following are the stages of addiction that people go through with opiates like pain pills, heroin, morphine, oxycodone, or codeine to name a few.
First stage – Legitimate use or experimentation
Many people begin using opioids after surgery or to help with chronic pain. They don’t intend to become addicted. It may never enter your mind that the pills a doctor prescribes for you can get you hooked. Or, you may be in college or young and thinking that you’re just having some fun experimenting with different things. Experimentation can be harmless, or, it can lead to an unwanted habit. You see, the way different people’s bodies respond to drugs has a significant effect on whether or not the person becomes addicted. For example, people who come from a family history of addiction are more likely to develop opioid dependence.
The University of Alabama is getting involved in the solution. Last year, they hosted a training course for clinicians who prescribe opioid medications.
Second stage – Social or regular use
At the second stage, people regularly use the drugs to manage pain. Or, if they are using the drugs for recreational purposes, then the drugs become part of the culture and maybe ‘fitting in’ to a certain group. It’s important to recognize what the drugs are doing for you. Addiction isn’t as much about quantity of drug, but about the reason that you do the drugs. Do you like the way they help you deal with stress or with life? Do you like that you can ‘check out’ for a while on opiates? You may realize at this stage that you like the drugs more than you prefer to admit to anyone or even to yourself.
Third stage – Risky Use
You or your loved one can move into stage three without even making a conscious decision. The physical and psychological cravings are strong at this point. And if you can’t get the drugs, you are irritable or depressed. You may start to need more of the opioid to create the same effect that less would achieve earlier in your use. You may find yourself making compromises or excuses to continue using the drug.
Fourth stage – Opioid dependence and addiction
In the final stage of addiction, your body and what you feel is your life is dependent on getting the opioids. By now, if you started on pain pills, you may be seeking illegal sources for the drugs or may move on to cheaper heroin. You’re hooked. Your personal relationships are changing or gone. You may commit crimes to keep the addiction going. You never thought it would go this far, but here you are. And you’re desperately afraid of going through opioid withdrawal.
Help for opioid dependence
When you realize that you don’t want to keep living this way, there is hope. But you have to ask for help to overcome opioid dependence. A methadone treatment program provides medication assistance that helps you transition off of the opioid with a less intense withdrawal. The programs are part medical, part counseling. The counseling you receive in a medication-assisted program will help you get your life back on track. You’ll practice skills for relationships with others and also learn about taking care of yourself and your needs in a positive way. Medication assistance with methadone has a more than 50 year history of helping people overcome opioid dependence and addiction. Is it time to write your story of success?