The Science Of How Opioid Addiction Starts
When a person abuses opioids in the long-term, it causes the way that nerve cells in the brain work to change. Opioids release a flood of dopamine and other chemicals that bind to receptors in the brain that are responsible for pain and reward. Due to the substantial increase of the chemicals, the nerve cells grow to accommodate more receptors for dopamine and other chemicals to bind to.
At this point, with the changes already in effect, when the use of opioids is suddenly stopped, several unpleasant reactions occur, such as the withdrawal symptoms. Along with opiate withdrawal symptoms, a tolerance forms. This tolerance, caused in part by the increase in opioid receptors, results in a person requiring larger amounts of the substance in order to achieve the same result.
When an addiction is present and the use of opioids stops, the amount of dopamine and serotonin that the brain can create pales in comparison to what opioids can achieve, especially because of the tolerance. As such, addicts often cant experience any sense of joy when they dont use opioids, and the changes that the drug caused can take months to rectify, as the receptor count and normal function of the reward centers of the brain return back to normal.
What Is Drug Dependence
Drug dependence is when the way your body works changes because you have taken a drug for a long time. These changes cause you to have withdrawal symptoms when you stop using the drug. Withdrawal symptoms can be mild or severe, and may include:
If you have been taking a prescription opioid for a long time, work with your doctor. They can help you avoid withdrawal symptoms by gradually lowering your dose over time until you no longer need the medicine.
How To Help A Morphine Addict
With approximately 52 million people in the U.S. having used prescription drugs nonmedically in their lifetime, widespread addiction to drugs like morphine is increasingly becoming a problem. When someone begins to engage in abuse morphine, it’s …
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Risks Factors For Opioid Addiction
Taking more than your prescribed dose for opioids is a considerable risk factor for addiction. The length of time you use opioids also plays a role. Using prescription opioids for more than a few days can increase your risk of long-term use. This is why most prescriptions are only used for short-term periods. Known risk factors for opioid addiction include:
- Heavy tobacco use
- Prior drug or alcohol abuse
In addition, women have specific risk factors for opioid addiction. Women are more likely than men to struggle with chronic pain, making them more likely to be prescribed opioid medications. Theyre also more likely to be given higher doses and use opioids for extended periods.
The hardest-hit communities are the states of West Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky, and New Hampshire. Researchers believe the high levels of unemployment are related to the opioid addiction trend and the rise in opioid overdose deaths.
The Effects Of Hydrocodone Use
About Hydrocodone Hydrocodone is a prescription medication sold under multiple brand names, such as: Vicodin. Norco. Lortab. The aforementioned trade names are combinations of hydrocodone and acetaminophen. Other trade formulations also exist that …
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What Is Naloxone And How Can It Help With An Overdose
Available as an injection or nasal spray, naloxone is a lifesaving medication that can rapidly reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. If you happen to have naloxone when responding to an overdose, call 911 and administer the medication according to the package instructions.
Access to naloxone is expanding on a state-by-state basis. It can be prescribed by a physician, is often carried by police officers and emergency medical responders, and is increasingly available over the counter at some pharmacies.
Methadone For Addiction Treatment
Methadone is a highly effective treatment for opioid use disorder when taken correctly and under the supervision of a medical practitioner. 1 Methadone can reduce or eliminate withdrawal symptoms and cravings to use opioids, and studies show it can …
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What Should You Do If You Or Someone You Know Is Addicted
If you or a loved one is ready to seek help for an addiction, the first step is to find a physician or other health professional who can help. Ask your physician for a referral to a medical professional in addiction medicine. Or search the American Society of Addiction Medicineâs website for addiction specialists in your area. The American Academy of Addiction Psychiatry also has a Patient Referral Program.
Another resource is the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration toll-free help line to find drug treatment near you: 1-800-662-HELP . Or you can visit SAHMSAâs Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator. Thereâs also a State Agencies webpage that helps you find state agencies that might have special programs for you or a loved one.
If you or a loved one is ready to seek assistance for an addiction, the first step is to find a physician or other health professional who can help.
If you are supporting a friend or loved one in overcoming addiction, the National Institute on Drug Abuse offers the following advice: Assure your friend or loved one that addiction can be managed successfully, but acknowledge that it may take several attempts at treatment to find the best approach. If your friend or loved one refuses to seek help, a confrontational âinterventionâ is not recommended. These encounters can escalate into violence or backfire in other ways. Try to convince the person to consult with a physician.
How Does Opioid Addiction Begin
Opioid addiction often begins with legally prescribed painkillers. Physicians may prescribe opioids to control pain due to surgery, illness, or injury. However, due to the potency and addictive qualities of this class of drugs, its easy for someone to develop an addiction to opioids. This often leads to seeking the drugs through legal and illegal means.
Other times, people become addicted through recreational use of opioids, including the following:
- Roxicet, Endocet, Percocet
If your opioid use disorder started with a legal prescription from your physician, it may take some time for you to realize that you have a problem. Our licensed therapists and medical staff can help you break the habit and find better ways of coping with trauma, depression, and anxiety. For example, yoga and mindfulness meditation have helped those dealing with chronic pain relax and take their mind off their physical discomfort.
Ask about our dual diagnosis program to treat co-occurring opioid addiction and mental health disorders. Mental health disorders often contribute to drug addiction and vice versa, so we address both issues with our holistic recovery approach.
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How Opioids Affect Sleep
The sleep cycle has two stages: NREM and REM sleep. Within these two stages, there are three sub-stages. Hereâs a quick breakdown:
Stage 1: This first stage of NREM sleep is very light, lasting only a few minutes or so. Here, your body is preparing to fall into a deeper sleep, your eye movements slow down, and your brain begins producing alpha and theta waves. During this stage, you can be easily awoken since youâre only lightly sleeping.
Stage 2: During this NREM stage, youâre lightly sleeping but your heart rate slows down, your muscles relax significantly and your body temperature decreases slightly. Eye movements will slow down during this stage, and your brain waves slow down with occasional increases in activity.
Stage 3: This NREM stage is restorative sleep, the kind that makes you feel refreshed. If someone were to wake you up during this stage, you would likely feel disoriented for a few minutes before recognizing your surroundings. Our eye movements slow down or stop, and itâs very difficult to wake us up. This stage is an important one â itâs where your body starts repairing muscle, strengthening your immune system, and other vital processes.
How To Help A Painkillers Addict
Help for Painkiller Addicts Painkillers are routinely prescribed in the United States for the management of pain , but not all of them are addictive. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are often prescribed for the treatment of mild to …
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Painkiller Detox And Withdrawal
Prescription painkillers are opioid medications that manage pain and, furthermore, exhibit activity throughout the brain’s pleasure centers. Their interaction with opioid receptors in the brain results in a down-modification of the sensations of …
What Are The Signs Of An Addiction
People addicted to drugs may change their behavior. Possible signs include:
- Mixing with different groups of people or changing friends
- Spending time alone and avoiding time with family and friends
- Losing interest in activities
- Getting into trouble with the law
- Attending work or school on an erratic schedule
- Experiencing financial hardship
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What Are The Stages Of Opioid Addiction
When opioids enter the body, they interact with nerve cells in the brain, spinal cord, the digestive tract, and elsewhere. In the brain, they activate the reward center and trigger the release of feel-good hormones called endorphins. Endorphins reduce pain and create feelings of pleasure.
People use a number of terms to describe problems with opioids, including addiction, dependence, tolerance, abuse, and use disorders. Understanding the differences may help you or a loved one get help and avoid life-threatening health problems or risk of overdose.
Tolerance. Over time, repeated opioid use can change your brain chemistry. Your brain adjusts to the dose you take and gets used to functioning on opioids. That is, your brain now tolerates the drug. Your body will slow the flow of endorphins it releases in response to that dose. To keep feeling good, youâll need to take larger doses to get the same intensity of pain relief and pleasure.
Dependence. If youâre regularly using opioids, your body will eventually adjust and depend on the drugs in order to function properly. Though everyone is different, your odds of becoming dependent go up the longer you take opioids.
The trouble starts when you try to stop or reduce your regular use of opioids. It can bring on a set of unpleasant physical and mental symptoms called âwithdrawal.â
These symptoms can include:
Other risk factors for developing an opioid addiction can include:
The Drug Overdose Epidemic Continues To Worsen In The United States
Drug overdoses, both fatal and nonfatal, continue to impact our nation.
Overdose deaths remain a leading cause of injury-related death in the United States. The majority of overdose deaths involve opioids. Deaths involving synthetic opioids and stimulants have increased in recent years. In addition, overdose deaths accelerated during the COVID-19 pandemic.
For every drug overdose that results in death, there are many more nonfatal overdoses, each one with its own emotional and economic toll. This fast-moving epidemic does not distinguish among age, sex, or state or county lines. People who have had at least one overdose are more likely to have another. If a person who has had an overdose is seen in the ED, there is an opportunity to help prevent a repeat overdose by linking an individual to care that can improve their health outcomes.
Timely data help improve coordination and promote readiness among health departments, community members, healthcare providers, public health, law enforcement, and government agencies, for regional or multiple state overdose increases.
Featured Topics on Drug Overdoses and Deaths
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What Is The Difference Between Drug Tolerance Dependence And Addiction
Drug tolerance and dependence are a normal part of taking any opioid drug for a long time. You can be tolerant to, or dependent on, a drug and not yet be addicted to it.
Addiction, however, is not normal. It is a disease. You are addicted to a drug when it seems that neither your body nor your mind can function without the drug. Addiction causes you to obsessively seek out the drug, even when the drug use causes behavior, health, or relationship problems.
Does Va Insurance Cover Addiction Treatment
If you or a loved one is a veteran living with a substance use disorder, help is available through VA insurance. Under the Affordable Care Act , all insurance plans, including VA insurance, must cover some or all of the cost of mental health …
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Stress And Drug Craving
That drug abuse patients are more vulnerable to stress than the general population is a clinical truism. In the research arena, numerous studies have documented that physical stressors and psychological stressors can cause animals to reinstate drug use and that stressors can trigger drug craving in addicted humans . The likely explanation for these observations is that opioids raise levels of cortisol, a hormone that plays a primary role in stress responses and cortisol, in turn, raises the level of activity in the mesolimbic reward system . By these mechanisms, stress may contribute to the abusers desire to take drugs in the first place and to his or her subsequent compulsion to keep taking them.
The Effects Of Norco Use: Short
What Is Norco Used For? Norco is a combination of acetaminophen and hydrocodone an opiate pain medication. It is intended to relieve moderate to severe pain. Because Norco contains the narcotic hydrocodone, it can be addictive and should be used …
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Opioid Tolerance Dependence And Withdrawal
From a clinical standpoint, opioid withdrawal is one of the most powerful factors driving opioid dependence and addictive behaviors. Treatment of the patients withdrawal symptoms is based on understanding how withdrawal is related to the brains adjustment to opioids.
Repeated exposure to escalating dosages of opioids alters the brain so that it functions more or less normally when the drugs are present and abnormally when they are not. Two clinically important results of this alteration are opioid tolerance and drug dependence . Withdrawal symptoms occur only in patients who have developed tolerance.
Opioid tolerance occurs because the brain cells that have opioid receptors on them gradually become less responsive to the opioid stimulation. For example, more opioid is needed to stimulate the VTA brain cells of the mesolimbic reward system to release the same amount of DA in the NAc. Therefore, more opioid is needed to produce pleasure comparable to that provided in previous drug-taking episodes.
The Neurobiological Basis of Dependence and Withdrawal
The locus ceruleus is an area of the brain that is critically involved in the production of opioid dependence and withdrawal. The diagrams show how opioid drugs affect processes in the LC that control the release of noradrenaline , a brain chemical that stimulates wakefulness, muscle tone, and respiration, among other functions.
How To Help A Tussionex Addict
Tussionex is a combination of hydrocodone, an opioid painkiller and cough suppressant, and chlorpheniramine, an antihistamine which eases allergy symptoms 1 . As a cough medicine, Tussionex is frequently prescribed to both children and adults. It is …
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Concomitant Use Of Other Medications Or Other Agents
Unless advised by your health care provider, certain medications should be avoided when taking opioids due to increased risk of severe drowsiness, decreased awareness, breathing problems, coma, or death. These medications include:
- Sedative/hypnotic agents
- Muscle relaxants
- Other central nervous system depressants
Opioids may interact with other medications that may increase your risk of overdose, arrhythmias, or seizures. It is best to check with your healthcare provider and pharmacist and read information from the Food and Drug Administration before taking other medications in conjunction with opioids.
If you have been taking opioids and feel you need help, talk to your doctor. OWCP stands ready to assist its injured federal workers with coordination and authorization of any necessary treatment to reduce the harms and risks of opioids. You may also wish to visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website for additional information regarding treatment, or contact SAMHSA’s National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP.
Need Help? If you or someone you know needs help dealing with opioid abuse please visit FindTreatment.gov or call 1-800-662-HELP
How Does Opioid Addiction Even Start In Teens
When we look back on the opioid epidemic, there was point when we asked ourselves, How did we get here? Before we knew it, approximately 53,000 people overdosed from opioids in 2016 causing us to scrambled to protect our loved ones. Teenagers make up around 4200 of the opioid overdoses that occurred in 2016 and over 500,000 hospital visits due to opioid misuse causing over 90,000 teens to attend rehab. We were astonished by these statistics which made us jump up and do something different, but we had to establish why addiction opioid even started with teens in the first place to get to the crux of the problem.
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Can I Take Opioids If Im Pregnant Or Thinking Of Becoming Pregnant
Healthcare providers generally dont prescribe opioids to people who are pregnant since the baby can become dependent on opioids. Approximately 50% of babies develop neonatal abstinence syndrome when exposed to opioids while in the womb.
Babies can then go through drug withdrawal after birth. Babies with neonatal abstinence syndrome may develop the following issues:
The severity of withdrawal symptoms varies from person to person and based on how long youve been taking the opioid and the type of opioid.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Opioids are very powerful drugs that affect your central and peripheral nervous systems. Due to their high addiction potential, its essential to make sure you follow your healthcare providers instructions for taking the medication. Do not take more than your daily recommended dose. Talk with your healthcare provider as soon as possible if you feel like youre dependent on opioids or if theyre not working to alleviate your symptoms.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 05/27/2022.