If you are using oxycodone, fentanyl, methadone, hydrocodone, or hydromorphone for pain relief, chances are you will get addicted to them. Opiates influence the mu-opioid receptors of the brain. These receptors trigger the pleasure center of the brain. Pleasure derived from using opioids motivates repeated use, which leads to dependence and, eventually, addiction.
Repeated use of prescription opioids alters the neurological and biochemical processes of the brain. This creates a lasting memory in the brain which associates a particular opioid to pleasure. Craving increases when an individual is exposed to certain circumstances or environment. For instance, if you use fentanyl to ease pain, anytime you get injured, the brain ‘tells you’ to use fentanyl to alleviate pain.
During the process of addiction, tolerance develops. Opioid tolerance occurs when the receptors gradually become less responsive to opioid stimulation, which drives more and more use of the drug to achieve the desired pleasure.
Genetics - variations in the genetic makeup explains why some people get addicted while others don’t. Differences in genetic structure of the receptors influence how people’s brains responds differently to opiate use.
Environment – individuals surrounded by an environment where people use opioids are likely to abuse prescription opioids.
Biological – different individuals have different ‘levels’ of endorphins – these are chemicals produced by the central nervous system to modulate the brain reward system. Endorphins work on opiate receptors in our brain to reduce pain and boost pleasure. People with low levels of endorphins may easily get addicted to exogenous opioids to attain pleasure levels they need.
A combination of these factors can lead to addiction to prescription opioids. The common paths that can accidentally lead to addiction when using prescription drugs include:
Since you have little control of the brain’s biochemical and neural processes that leads to addiction, ensuring that you don’t develop tolerance to opiates is important. You can avoid getting addicted by divulging all information about your mental health, family history, and previous use of drugs to your physician.
This allows the physician to monitor you closely and assess your situation to check any signs of dependence. As soon as you realize you are getting dependent on an opioid, inform your physician for medical intervention.
We assist people with opiate addiction by providing information and resources about drug detoxification and subsequent recovery therapies. For more information about opioid addiction, please read our Recovery Guide for Opioids.
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