Drug addictions ruin health, destroy families, and cause serious legal repercussions. This is especially true when it comes to opiates, which are highly addictive even after short-term use. Understanding the nature of addiction is crucial, both for family members as well as the person with the drug problem. The Mayo Clinic explains how opiate addiction works and what risk factors are involved.
While anyone can get addicted to opiates, there are certain risk factors that make it more likely. The longer you take a drug, the more likely it is you'll become addicted. This is a real issue for people with chronic pain, who are often given prescriptions to control discomfort over an extended period of time. There are many other factors that play a role in whether you'll misuse opiates. People who are currently unemployed are more likely to have issues, as are those with a long history of substance abuse. People with anxiety or depression, those who engage risky behaviors, and people who are under a great deal of stress are also more likely to develop addictions.
Taking opioids for more than a few days causes changes in the way your brain works. Endorphins, which are feel-good chemicals within your body, stop being produced as the drug is used more and more. This causes a tolerance to develop, which means the user must take more of the drug to get a euphoric response. While quitting is ultimately in the person's best interest, doing so you can be hard or even dangerous. Some people will experience severe withdrawal effects, which is why it's suggested you receive professional medical assistance when getting off opiates.
Lastly, there are things you can do to prevent addiction from happening in the first place. If you're given a prescription after an injury or surgery, make sure you take the medication according to your doctor's orders. If you suffer from chronic pain, look for other methods of pain relief that don't involve opioids. If you have leftover medication, dispose of it properly. This will keep loved ones, especially teens and young adults, from abusing it.