Finding out how Opioid addiction starts

Finding ways to temper the deadliest scourge plaguing modern families today, may begin with understanding how opioid addiction starts. Opioids are a class of drugs that include pain medications such as codeine, fentanyl, hydrocodone, morphine, oxycodone, and the illicit drug heroin.

In a 2016 facts and figures report, Scientist at the American Society of Addiction Medicine indicated that an estimated two million Americans have a dependency on licit prescription drugs and another 591,000 had a substance use disorder involving heroin. With over 20,101 lethal prescription drug overdoses and 12,990 heroin overdose deaths in 2015, they also pointed out that opioid addiction is the driving force of this epidemic. Based on statistics from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), prescription drug abuse is the fastest growing drug problem in the nation with:

  • a prescription drug overdose death occurring every 19 minutes,
  • opioid analgesics contributing to more overdose deaths than heroin and cocaine combined,
  • one in ten suicide or accidental overdose in women being directly linked to opioid pain pills, and
  • the high rate of opioid analgesic misuse and overdose death occurring among men age 20–64.

While misuse of prescription drugs and moral failure was for a time, society’s answer for how opioid addiction starts; efforts to tackle the problem based on these assumptions alone unveiled more complex issues. For instance, rampant distribution of prescription pain medication through pain management clinics, loose prescribing practices by physicians, poor disposal methods by patients and easy access through at home medicine cabinets to pain medications for visitors and teenagers were shown to be some of the primary mechanisms driving the use of opioids.

However, despite multiple efforts by the Food and drug administration (FDA), as well as state and local government officials to curb prescription drug abuse and addiction such as through a vigorous crack down on pain management clinics also known as pill mills, restrictions that limit opioid refills, the use of databases to monitor dissemination of pain pills and prescriptions drug take-back days to name a few; the problem persists.

How Opioid Addiction Start?

There are several pathways that lead to addiction to opioids. The simplest answer to how opioid addiction starts, however, is with repeated consumption of these drugs. Whether the drug was introduced into the body as a way to relieve a medical condition or for recreational purposes, repeated or sustained use ultimately builds tolerance levels that leads to dependence and addiction.  The progression of opioid dependence into full blown addiction however is often influenced by one or a combination of factors such as:

  1. The users physical and psychological health
  2. A genetic predisposition to addiction
  3. Insufficient monitoring of drug use
  4. Unsupervised changes in prescribed dose
  5. Using pain pills prescribed for others

Patients who increase their opioid medication dosage without notifying the prescribing physicians about the need for change, put themselves at risk of a drug overdose or developing a dependency. Dependence on opioids can also occur if:

  • The initial dosage prescribed by the physician was too high.
  • Opioid pain medication interacted with other medications being taken by the patient.
  • The patient has at least one mental health condition that is influencing inappropriate use.
  • The consumption period recommended by the physician was long enough for a dependency to develop.
  • There is a pre-existing addiction to opioids or comorbidity that was not recognized and addressed by the prescribing physician.

What is Opioid Addiction

Opioid addiction is a medical condition characterized by the uncontrollable and compulsive need to consume opioid drugs. It typically manifests as an irrepressible need to use opioids despite severe physical, financial, relational, judicial, or other consequences.

It is possible for effects of opioid addiction to manifest as physical or psychological dependence– or both. If drug use becomes obsessive and habituated, patients can experience physical and psychological impairments that may or may not have lasting effects. When opioid addiction is fully established, efforts to halt drug use can also result in painful and in some instances, life-threatening withdrawal symptoms.  Some signs of opioid addiction may include, but is not limited to:

  • Legal and illicit drug seeking behavior
  • Increased and prolonged opioid abuse
  • Severe or uncontrollable cravings for opioids
  • Mild to severe opioid withdrawal symptoms

If you or a loved one is struggling with dependence or addiction to opioids, it is important to seek help immediately to prevent the possibility of a lethal drug overdose. Using opioid painkillers in combination with other medications is also a major cause of accidental overdose deaths. Treatment for opioid addiction or dependency is designed to reduce many health risks, support pain management and improve any physical and or psychological conditions caused by or driving continued use of opioid substances.

If you or a loved one needs help with abuse and/or treatment, please call the WhiteSands Treatment at (877) 855-3470. Our addiction specialists can assess your recovery needs and help you get the addiction treatment that provides the best chance for your long-term recovery.

About the Author

is a proud alumni member of WhiteSands Treatment. After living a life of chaos, destruction and constant let downs, Mark was able to make a complete turnaround that sparked a new way of life. He is serious about his recovery along with helping others. At WhiteSands Treatment, we offer support to you in your homes or when you are out living in your daily lives.