What Makes Opioids Addictive?

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Opioid addiction occurs from a reward mechanism in the brain that ties positive feelings from the drug to the endorphins that the drug releases. People with opioid addiction may have lasting drug cravings that therapy can help control.

What Makes Opioids Addictive?

Opioid addiction is a multifaceted disease that is largely caused because the opioid drug activates reward mechanisms in the brain through endorphins like dopamine.

A person that uses opioids to control pain or recreationally may begin to have psychological cravings or compulsively seek the drug.

Addiction is distinct from physical dependence since dependence creates withdrawal symptoms when the substance is not in the system.

A person that is dependent on an opioid drug will feel uncomfortable anxiety, chills, and other symptoms that can only be quieted by more opioid administration.

But a person that is addicted to opioids will feel intense cravings and disruption in daily life in order to feel the drug’s effects.

How Do People Get Addicted To Opioids?

A person can get addicted to opioids beginning with prescribed opioids to control pain after surgery.

Because the medication numbs pain and provides feelings of euphoria (with a dopamine release), the person associates opioids with positive feelings.

Not everybody that is prescribed opioid painkillers becomes addicted to them. Similarly, not everybody that occasionally uses opioids will become addicted.

However, some environmental and personal risk factors do make the likelihood of addiction greater.

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Risk Factors Of Opioid Addiction

Some people may be more likely to continuously abuse opioids due to psychological, environmental, or genetic factors.

Once a person at risk for abuse takes opioids, the potential for opioid abuse rises substantially.

Some risk factors of opioid misuse and addiction include:

  • unemployment
  • poverty
  • young age
  • family history of substance abuse
  • personal history of substance abuse
  • history of criminal activity or legal problems
  • associating with people that abuse drugs/alcohol
  • mental health conditions that complicate relationships and employment
  • risk-taking behavior
  • heavy tobacco use
  • history of depression or anxiety
  • stress

The Effects Of Opioid Abuse May Lead To Addiction

People that are addicted to opioids crave the endorphin rush that accompanies the physical and psychological effects of opioid ingestion.

Some desired opioid effects include:

  • drowsiness
  • positive feelings/euphoria
  • painlessness
  • eased anxiety

These short-term, desired effects can come with undesirable short-term side effects that include:

  • dry mouth
  • mental fog
  • pinpoint pupils
  • nausea
  • warm skin flushing
  • constipation
  • severe itching
  • heavy feeling in the arms and legs

Getting Help For Opioid Addiction

With dedicated substance abuse treatment, opioid addiction can be overcome. If you or a loved one struggle with opioid addiction, call our helpline today.

Our treatment specialists can help you find the best inpatient or outpatient program for your needs. Don’t wait to get started — call now.

This page does not provide medical advice. See more

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