Opiates cause physical dependence in those who use them for a long period of time, whether these individuals abuse them or take them as their doctors prescribe. Addiction to opiate medications can be avoided with careful treatment and by resisting the potential of abuse, but dependence on these drugs is often a side effect of taking them for a prolonged period of time.
Opioid Treatment Timeline
According to the National Library of Medicine, “You should not use a narcotic drug for more than 3 to 4 months, unless you are under direct care of your provider.” This is because taking opioids for a long period of time, more than a few months, can often lead to abuse in order to combat tolerance, to feel euphoric effects, or for another reason. This timeline is often set as well to avoid the possibility of dependency. However, a person could still become reliant on opioids after taking them for a few months––or even a few weeks––based on their situation.
As stated by the NLM, “The time it takes to become physically dependent varies with each individual,” and some people might experience issues while others may not. Those who receive opioids while in the hospital sometimes become dependent without realizing it and go through withdrawal without knowing what it is. Therefore, the timeline that leads to dependence is difficult to predict.
“Your provider may suggest that you take your medicine only when you feel pain or taking your medication “on a regular schedule.” With either of these instances, a person can avoid dependence by taking their medication as prescribed or only when necessary, but patients should avoid doing so longer than 3 to 4 months. Under some doctors’ orders, though, dependence occurs simply because the treatment calls for the individual to take consistent doses of opioids for a prolonged period of time. The body will, inevitably, become reliant on the drug, and while this is not the same as addiction, it will require medically assisted withdrawal treatment.
How Can I Avoid Opioid Dependence?
If you are on an opiate prescription, there are a few things you can do to minimize the chance of dependence and the issues associated with it:
- Always talk to your doctor. It is important to know what medication you are taking, what the side effects are, and whether or not it is likely to lead to dependence. If your doctor switches you to another opioid medication, ask how the change will affect you.
- If you begin to notice symptoms of dependence or withdrawal, talk to your doctor and see if anything can be done to minimize these.
- Be aware of how the drug is affecting your mind and body, and avoid abusing your prescription at all times.
- When you are ready to go off the drug, have your doctor taper your dosage so you do not experience any severe withdrawal symptoms.
It is difficult to avoid dependence entirely when on a long-term regimen of opioids, but by talking to your doctor and staying faithful to your prescription amount, you can avoid any serious issues and, possibly, dependence and withdrawal altogether.
If you have more questions about opioid dependence or treatment for this issue, call 800-584-3274 today.