How Do People Become Addicted to Opioids? Recognizing the Risks of Dependency

Need an Attorney right now? You've come to the right place.
By Marcus Fernandez

When they were first introduced by the pharmaceutical companies that invented them, the new class of opioid pain medications was touted as game-changers. Drugs that were powerful, effective, long-lasting, and most importantly non-addictive. Over time, however, the reality of the situation became clear. And by that time millions of innocent users had already become unwittingly addicted to opioids.

Far from being non-addictive, the newest class of opioid painkillers turned out to be just as habit-forming. And in some cases even more addictive than the older medications they were designed to replace. By then, the addiction crisis was already in full swing. Millions of innocent chronic pain patients were already suffering.

What Causes Opioid Addiction?

So how do people become addicted to opioids, and could someone you care about be at risk? If someone in your life suffers from chronic pain or is taking opioids after a hospital stay, the short answer is yes.

The same answer applies if someone in your life struggles with addiction. Even if they are in recovery, your friend or family member could end up backsliding. The low street prices for synthetic opioids and the widespread availability of prescription drugs like Oxycontin and Vicodin present a difficult temptation.

Knowing how and why people become addicted to opioids is an important step for concerned friends and family. It is never too early to begin that journey to understanding.

Opioids and Pain Perception

When it comes to treating a chronic pain condition, opioid painkillers can be effective for a time. But a surprising side effect of these powerful medications is that they can increase pain perception. In the long-term, this makes an existing pain problem even worse.

As a result, many chronic pain patients end up increasing their dosages as this rebound pain appears. They may be confused by this side effect and not fully understand what is going on. And many patients never consult their doctors about it. As a result, the overuse of the drug can set up a kind of vicious cycle, forcing patients to take more pills to achieve less pain relief.

If someone in your household has been using opioids for pain relief, it is important to monitor their usage carefully. When they are running out of medication in the middle of the month or seeking new prescriptions, it is likely they are experiencing both increased pain perception and decreased effectiveness of the drug. If that is the case, it is important to reach out to a drug rehab center for additional guidance.

Curiosity and Self-Medication

Chronic pain is just one of the reasons people seek opioid pain medications. There are other reasons these medications are used so widely. In some cases, the use of opioid painkillers begins with seemingly innocent experimentation. But, that use can quickly spiral out of control.

It could be as simple as a teenager who finds an old Oxycontin prescription in their parent’s medicine cabinet. Or a college student who buys a few pills on the campus. It could be a student-athlete with an injury who uses opioids as a type of self-medication so they can stay in the game.

No matter what the reason, however, the use of opioid medications can have serious, and even lifelong, implications for the men and women who take them. If you are concerned about your own use of prescription opioids or worried about someone else in your life, getting timely help could make all the difference. There is help available in the form of quality detox, drug rehab and other services, but the first step is up to you.