By now, most people know of the high rates of addiction that come with opiate abuse, whether using heroin or prescription pain pills. While anyone who tries heroin essentially rolls the dice when using this drug, what about prescription pain meds?
Is it possible to use pain pills every now and then without having to worry about a developing opiate addiction?
Opiates, as a group, have certain chemical properties that make them prime candidates for ongoing abuse regardless of a person’s intentions at the outset. Understanding how these drugs interact with the brain and body can go a long way towards avoiding the opiate addiction trap.
How Do Opiates Work?
Most all opiate-based drugs either come from or are modeled after the opium poppy, a plant that has natural pain-relieving compounds or alkaloids. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the human body also houses its own pain management system made up of endorphin chemicals.
The alkaloids found in the opium poppy plant and the body’s endorphin chemicals both produce the same effects in terms of muting or blocking pain signals from reaching the brain.
These similarities account for why opiate drugs, such as Percocet, hydrocodone and Dilaudid can relieve pain symptoms. In effect, opiates force the brain to release large amounts of endorphin chemicals with each dose of the drug. Since opiates and endorphins share similar chemical makeups, the brain easily assimilates opiate materials within its own chemical environment. These interactions set the stage for drug abuse and opiate addiction to develop.
For information on opiate addiction treatment options, call 800-442-6158 Who Answers? .
The Opiate Addiction Potential
Taking a Percocet or hydrocodone pill every now and then, such as once a week or twice a month poses little risk of developing opiate addiction provided a person can maintain this “once-in-a-while” usage rate. Unfortunately, a range of factors can interfere with your ability to keep drug use to a minimum, some of which include:
- How large a dosage amount is taken
- Why a person is using the drug
- Whether a history of drug abuse exists
- Whether a person has a tendency towards addictive behaviors
In general, the larger the dose taken, the more it interferes with the brain’s chemical processes. As each person’s body makeup differs, some people may experience mild withdrawal effects after taking a large dosage amount, such as problems sleeping, irritability and restlessness.
According to the Journal of Addiction Science & Clinical Practice, withdrawal effects play a pivotal role in driving the opiate addiction cycle. While a person may be able to make it past the withdrawal phase, repeated use of the drug, even on an infrequent basis, can weaken your resolve in terms of needing to take more of the drug more often.
Likewise, the reason a person opts to use opiates can also predispose him or her to opiate addiction. During times of stress or emotional distress, the relief that comes when using opiates can quickly turn into a “go-to” remedy for coping with daily life pressures. This practice places users at high risk of developing opiate addiction simply because of how quickly a person can become emotionally dependent on the drug’s effects.
Ultimately, any level of drug abuse comes with a certain risk of opiate addiction. While it may not seem like a big deal at the time, the effects of these drugs on the brain and body are gradual, leaving many unaware of the changes that take place in the background.
If you suspect you or someone you know may be at risk of opiate addiction and need help finding treatment that meets your specific needs, please don’t hesitate to call our toll-free helpline at 800-442-6158 Who Answers? to speak with one of our addictions specialists.