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Understanding Opioid Dependence

Opioids are prescribed to treat pain. With prolonged use, pain-relieving effects may lessen and pain can become worse. In addition, the body can develop dependence. Opioid dependence causes withdrawal symptoms, which makes it difficult to stop taking them. Addiction occurs when dependence interferes with daily life. Taking more than the prescribed amount or using illegal opioids like heroin may result in death.

Symptoms of addiction include uncontrollable cravings and inability to control opioid use even though its having negative effects on personal relationships or finances.

Treatment varies but may include discontinuing the drug. Medications such as methadone can help alleviate the symptoms of withdrawal and cravings. Dr Greenwood recommends consulting your doctor about medication assisted help and pairing that with support programs for the most success.

Opioid addiction is a long-lasting (chronic) disease that can cause major health, social, and economic problems. Opioids are a class of drugs that act in the nervous system to produce feelings of pleasure and pain relief. Some opioids are legally prescribed by healthcare providers to manage severe and chronic pain. Commonly prescribed opioids include oxycodone, fentanyl, buprenorphine, methadone, oxymorphone, hydrocodone, codeine, and morphine. Some other opioids, such as heroin, are illegal drugs of abuse.

Opioid addiction is characterized by a powerful, compulsive urge to use opioid drugs, even when they are no longer required medically. Opioids have a high potential for causing addiction in some people, even when the medications are prescribed appropriately and taken as directed. Many prescription opioids are misused or diverted to others. Individuals who become addicted may prioritize getting and using these drugs over other activities in their lives, often negatively impacting their professional and personal relationships. It is unknown why some people are more likely to become addicted than others.

Opioids change the chemistry of the brain and lead to drug tolerance, which means that over time the dose needs to be increased to achieve the same effect. Dr Greenwood states that, taking opioids over a long period of time produces dependence, such that when people stop taking the drug, they have physical and psychological symptoms of withdrawal (such as muscle cramping, diarrhea, and anxiety). Dependence is not the same thing as addiction; although everyone who takes opioids for an extended period will become dependent, only a small percentage also experience the compulsive, continuing need for the drug that characterizes addiction.