In 2012, there were over 259 million opiate painkiller prescriptions written across America and an estimated 4.5 million nonmedical users of them in 2013. Heroin use is resurging as addicts look for alternatives to the high costs of painkillers on the street and increased drug prescription monitoring controls.
No matter how your initial exposure to opiates occurred, chances are, that once you take them for a while you recognize changes in your physical and psychological health that makes you question whether you have an addiction or not.
Physical Opiate Dependence
Physical dependence to opiates can result after using them for only 2-3 days depending on the types of opiates used, the amounts, frequencies, and methods of use. Also, some people may be more susceptible to opiate dependence based on their health.
Physical withdrawal symptoms of muscle aches, nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting are common in even the least of those physically dependent on opiates when they suddenly reduce or cease use of the drugs, but, this doesn’t mean you are addicted.
Psychological Opiate Dependence
Here is where it gets a little complicated. Psychological dependence doesn’t typically occur as quickly as the physical dependence, however, some people may be predisposed to more rapid development due to biological markers, environmental, genetic, age, or underlying mental health factors.
Because opiates work to reinforce communications in the reward pathways of the brain, using opiates regularly will result in some degree of psychological dependence. Psychological dependence can lead to compulsive behaviors to obtain and abuse opiates and withdrawals which may include craving for opiates and feeling anxious or agitated until you use more.
Am I Addicted to Opiates?
According to NIDA, “Addiction is a chronic, often relapsing brain disease that causes compulsive drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences to the addicted individual and to those around him or her.” If you are unable to control your compulsion to use more opiates, despite any of the following negative consequences, you may be considered addicted.
- Illegal or deceitful behaviors to obtain opiates such as lying or stealing them, purchasing them on the street, or doctor shopping for multiple prescriptions
- Isolation from family or friends who discourage your opiate use
- Lack of interest in activities other than those involving the use of opiates
- Frequent attempts to quit using without success
- Behaviors that revolve around seeking and using opiates
- Irrational, unmoral, or dishonorable behaviors because of use
- Psychological issues that cause distress or harm to you or those who care about you such as uncontrollable mood swings, anxiety, or depression
- Negative physical health resulting from use such as excessive fatigue, weakness, cycles of withdrawals, and decline in overall performance
- Negative family, social, financial, legal, or employment problems because of opiate use