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Abuse and Addiction of Opioids

Abuse and Addiction of Opioids

Opioids, or opiates, are a narcotic class of drugs. These drugs are derived from the opium poppy, such as codeine and morphine. It includes synthetic or partially synthetic formulas. These medications are used to treat severe or persistent pain.

They are typically used by people suffering from chronic pain, patients recovering from surgery, or those who have been seriously injured due to accidents, falls, or other incidents. You can purchase these medications only using a valid doctor’s prescription as they are to be addictive and abused.

What is opioids addiction?

Substance addiction or drug addiction is a neuropsychiatric disorder characterized by the inability to control the use of the drug and compulsive continued desire to consume the drug despite harmful consequences. Some substances are more addictive than others, and opioids are on the top of the list.

What causes opioid addiction?

Various individual, environmental and genetic factors influence the dependence, addiction, and liking of the drug. The chemicals present in opioids attach to specialized proteins, called mu (μ), primary opioid receptors, on the brain cells (surface of opiate-sensitive neurons).

These chemicals associate with the receptors and cause the same biochemical processes in the brain that insinuate feelings of reward and pleasure when they engage in activities that promote basic life functions, such as eating and sex. They are therefore misused and motivate repeated consumption of the drug simply for pleasure.

Causes of addiction include

  • History of substance abuse
  • Depression or other mental disorders
  • Childhood neglect or abuse
  • Personality traits such as impulsiveness and sensation-seeking.
  • living in poverty or under stressful situations/environment
  • Association with other substance abusers and having easy access to these drugs contribute to a person’s risk of opioid addiction.

What's the difference between drug tolerance, addiction, and dependence?

Most people assume drug addiction, dependence, and tolerance are pretty much the same thing. But in fact, each term means something very different about how drugs affect an individual’s body and brain. Learning the difference between the three is quite essential.


After using opioids for a certain period, your body gets used to the effects of the drug, and you might find that you require a higher dose of the medicine to achieve the same effect as it did initially.


Dependence means that if a person will stop using a drug, their body goes through a withdrawal stage that affects the body physically and mentally.

Opioid drugs alter the functions of your brain by creating artificial endorphins. In addition to blocking pain, these endorphins make a euphoric feeling. Extended use of opioids can cause your brain to rely entirely on these artificial endorphins.

Once this happens, it may stop producing its endorphins altogether. The more you use these drugs, the more likely this is to happen. You will also need more and more opioids over time due to the drug tolerance.


Addiction causes you to compulsively and obsessively use the drug, even when the drug use causes terrible consequences such as health, behavioral, or relationship problems. It may feel like neither your body nor your mind can function without it.

Is it possible to prevent or avoid opioid addiction?

A lot of people can use opioids safely without getting addicted to them. However, the potential for opioid addiction is extremely high. This is especially only the case if you use them for an extended time.

Generally, you can avoid opioid addiction if you use these drugs for no longer than a week. Research shows that using them for over a month can lead to dependence and consequently causing addiction.


Consumption of opioids must be avoided at all costs unless it is required and prescribed by the doctor. Even then, it must be taken cautiously and mindfully precisely as advised. If you begin to feel symptoms of tolerance, dependence, or addiction, seek professional help immediately, it can be dangerous and life-threatening.


Cody Weeks, Douglas M. Stenstrom,
Stigmatization of opioid addiction based on prescription, sex and age,
Addictive Behaviors,
Volume 108,
ISSN 0306-4603,
(https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0306460320305992) Accessed on 13/06/2021

Torrens M., Fonseca F., Galindo L., Farré M. (2015) Opioid Addiction: Short- and Long-Acting Opioids. In: el-Guebaly N., Carrà G., Galanter M. (eds) Textbook of Addiction Treatment: International Perspectives. Springer, Milano. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-88-470-5322-9_20 Accessed on 13/06/2021

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