The Progression of Opiate Addiction

The progression of opiate addiction

The progression of opiate addiction

Opiates are a class of drugs that includes a broad selection of prescription painkillers and illegal street drugs. The following are a few examples of opiates:

  • Oxycodone
  • Hydromorphone
  • Heroin
  • Morphine

People prescribed opiates may become addicted even when using the drug as directed by a medical professional, and when these drugs are misused intentionally or unintentionally, the risk of addiction is even greater. Those intentionally misusing prescription drugs or using street drugs like heroin may find themselves quickly overwhelmed by addiction, but those using prescribed drugs are not immune to a similar experience. In fact individuals addicted to prescription drugs are often more hesitant to seek the help they need to find real recovery. They are able to deny their addiction under the guise of medical “need,” or they do not view prescription drug addiction as being as serious as addictions to illegal street drugs. However no matter how addiction starts, it progresses in a similar pattern, a pattern that can be reversed through professional support and personal action.

Opiate Tolerance and Dependence

Opiate addiction begins with tolerance. Psych Central[1] explains that tolerance develops when the brain and body, “compensate for the vicious highs and lows that occur during repeated opioid use and opioid withdrawal by reducing the number of opioid receptors in the brain…More and more of the opioid is needed to achieve the same effect. The result is that eventually the addict may feel lifeless, depressed, and may be unable to enjoy activities that usually bring them pleasure. By the time most opioid addicts seek treatment they no longer get a euphoric effect from taking an opioid – they are taking opioids just to function normally.” Tolerance means that a drug becomes necessary to feel “normal” rather than a means of adjusting normal whether in terms of managing pain or experiencing a high. Life begins to revolve around getting and using drugs, and individuals become dependent on the presence of opiates. This dependence is the next stage of opiate addiction progression. Once a person becomes physically dependent on opiates, he or she will experience withdrawal symptoms when the drug is not present. Individuals will take more and more of the drug to continue delaying the onset of these symptoms and to maintain the new “normal.” This ever-increasing need for opiates means there is an ever-increasing likelihood of overdose, among other serious consequences of addiction. Individuals may find themselves lying to family, friends and doctors to get more drugs or in an attempt to maintain secrecy surrounding their drug use. They may resort to stealing prescription drugs, visiting multiple doctors to obtain multiple prescriptions or switching from using expensive, difficult to find prescription opiates to cheaper and even more dangerous opiates like heroin.

End the Progression of Addiction

While withdrawal from opiates can seem overwhelming, it is only a brief part of the overall recovery experience. Recovery only gets better and easier as time goes on. It begins with getting help, support and supervision to ease physical dependence, and it continues with therapy, social support and learning and using new life skills. Ending the progression of addiction means beginning the progression of a new, rewarding and drug-free life. Get the information and help you need to start your recovery. Call our toll-free helpline. We are here 24 hours a day to help you stop addiction in its tracks and find the personalized treatment that will put you on the path towards healing and life-long recovery.


[1]    http://psychcentral.com/lib/opioid-dependence-and-withdrawal/. “Opioid Dependence and Withdrawal.” Psych Central. 30 Oct 2015. Web. 17 May 2016.