What Causes Opioid Addiction?

What Causes Opioid Addiction
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By April Knasinski, LCSW, LCAC, Clinical Director, Recovery Works Cambridge City, one of Pinnacle’s two detox and residential treatment centers in Indiana

According to the latest statistics, 69.5% of all drug overdose deaths in the U.S. are due to opioids. This makes (mostly synthetic) opioids the main source of drug overdose deaths in the nation.

Historically, many people considered opioid-related overdoses mainly due to heroin. Increased awareness, however, has brought to light the problems associated with commonly prescribed opioids such as oxycodone and fentanyl contributing to the opioid epidemic in America.

But, exactly how does opioid addiction start? It’s a common and important question that we’ll answer in more detail below.

How Opioid Addiction Starts

Opioids refer to drugs that affect the nervous system. They can produce feelings of both pain-relief and pleasure. Despite the prevalence and insidiousness of opioid addiction, the causes of the condition are not fully understood.

What evidence-based research does show is that there is a combination of contributing genetic, environmental, lifestyle, and social determinants of opioid addiction.

Opioids such as hydrocodone, oxycodone, oxymorphone, morphine, codeine, and fentanyl are particularly addictive because of the way they interact with the brain. These drugs bind and activate opioid receptors, blocking pain signals from the brain to the body. Dopamine is then pumped throughout the body. This produces feelings of euphoria and relaxation, and what also triggers a person to continue seeking the drug.

Cause and Effect of Continuing Opioid Use

While in the short term, people using opioids can feel happy and at ease, continued use can lead to a host of harmful side effects. These symptoms and outcomes can include:

  • Confusion
  • Constipation
  • Drowsiness
  • Nausea
  • Slowed breathing

More serious complications and consequences can include:

  • Hypoxia, resulting from the brain being deprived of oxygen
  • Increased risk of contracting HIV and other infectious diseases (from sharing needles and engaging in unprotected sex)
  • Overdose
  • Death

The longer opioids are used, the more difficult they are to quit, and the higher the risk becomes for experiencing one of the consequences listed above. In addition to health problems, opioid addiction destroys relationships, livelihoods, and emotional wellbeing.

If you are concerned that you may have a problem with opioids, you are not alone. As previously mentioned, this type of drug disorder affects millions of Americans. Learning how opioid addiction starts is the first step toward getting help.

At Pinnacle Treatment Centers we understand the complexities and loneliness that come with drug addiction. But, you don’t have to overcome it on your own, our compassionate staff is here to support you every step of the way.

If you think you or someone you love needs help for opioid addiction, visit us online. Or, for more information about drug abuse and addiction definitions, signs, and symptoms, call us today at 1-800-782-1520.

Headquartered in New Jersey, Pinnacle Treatment Centers is a recognized leader in comprehensive drug and alcohol addiction treatment serving more than 29,000 patients daily in California, Indiana, Kentucky, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. With more than 110 community-based locations, Pinnacle provides a full continuum of quality care for adult men and women which includes medically-monitored detoxification/withdrawal management, inpatient/residential treatment, partial hospitalization/care, sober living, intensive and general outpatient programming, and medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for opioid use disorder.

The materials provided on the Pinnacle Blog are for information and educational purposes only. No behavioral health or any other professional services are provided through the Blog and the information obtained through the Blog is not a substitute for consultation with a qualified health professional. If you are in need of medical or behavioral health treatment, please contact a qualified health professional directly, and if you are in need of emergency help, please go to your nearest emergency room or dial 911.