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Understanding Opiate Addiction

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The intended use of opiate drugs is to provide relief for moderate-to-severe pain. It’s the way opiates work within the brain that sometimes creates a physical dependence to these drugs. Addiction to opiates often develops over time due to prolonged use, which can make it difficult to stop taking these medications. Dependence on opiates can reach a point where personal and professional aspects of life are affected.

What Is Opiate Addiction?

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, opiate addiction is a brain disease that, while not curable, is entirely manageable. Addiction often includes a cluster of symptoms frequently centered around a desire to obtain more opiates to satisfy a craving. Such behaviors may lead to compulsive actions.

Signs of an Opiate Addiction

Possible signs of an opiate addiction, which may initially be difficult to recognize if opiates are initially taken as intended, can be both physical and behavioral in nature. Physical signs typically include a noticeable sense of euphoria, enhanced side effects such as drowsiness, dizziness or confusion, and respiratory issues. Behavioral signs may include “doctor shopping,” dramatic mood changes, social withdrawal or isolation, and unexplained financial problems.

How Does Opiate Addiction Develop?

The risk of developing an addiction to opiates is low as long as these medications are used for a short period of time. Yet it can be difficult for doctors to determine when to take a patient off of opiates since interpretation of pain is based on what the patient is reporting. An opiate addiction may develop from:

• Taking prescribed opiates other than as instructed
• Intentional abuse or misuse to achieve a “high”
• A physical tolerance stemming from prolonged use

Risk Factors for Opiate Addiction

While anyone can develop an addiction to opiates, there are certain circumstances that may increase the odds of developing a dependence on these drugs. These factors include a family history of addiction or a personal history of drug or alcohol abuse. Underlying conditions such as anxiety and depression may also contribute to an opiate addiction.

Recovery from an opiate dependency is often a complex process due to the various aspects of addiction. The most challenging part of recovery for most people is the initial detox and withdrawal stage when adjustments take place within the body and chemical balance is restored in the brain. However, detox is the first step in learning to live without the burdens of addiction.