When it comes to the opioid epidemic, it seems that ugliness is all we see. On the nightly news, we see families torn apart as they lose loved ones to overdose. And it’s a story that’s becoming all too commonplace. In fact, some estimates say we’re losing 115 people daily to opioid overdose. We can say that those who avoid a fatal overdose are the “lucky ones,” but they also lose a lot. So how did we get here? How can a natural substance become so ugly, and why does it ruin so many lives? Let’s explore the ugly truth about opioid addiction.
Addiction is a disease
You may have heard that addiction is a disease. Some people don’t believe it. But the concept is easier to wrap your head around when you understand how addiction works. In most cases, a person will make a conscious decision to use opioids. The decision is often driven by intense pain. Opioids are very effective painkillers, but they are highly addictive.
Opioids work by altering brain chemistry. If you take opioids regularly, you’ll build up a tolerance, which means you’ll need higher doses to get the same effect. No one knows when addiction will take hold, but once the brain gets accustomed to the artificial dopamine source, it will eventually become hardwired to seek it. This is where the person loses control and the addiction takes over.
No one is immune
It’s true that some people are more prone to addiction than others. We still have a long way to go towards understanding addiction, but we know that there are many factors that can influence a person’s likelihood of becoming addicted.
Below are a few things that could increase your likelihood of becoming an addict:
- The family history of addiction
- Teenage drug abuse
- Personality traits (like impulsivity, depression or anxiety)
- Environmental influences
Even with these risk factors, you’re never guaranteed to become an addict. But the more risk factors you have, the more careful you should be to avoid addictive substances like opioids.
Addiction has no cure
We’ve established that addiction is a disease, but it is a disease with no cure. Fortunately, you can recover and live a healthy drug-free life, but your brain chemistry will be forever changed.
This is why someone who is addicted to alcohol cannot have just one drink. Moderation doesn’t work for recovering addicts because the brain instantly goes back to drug-seeking mode. Recovery is not a reset button. You never get to go back to “starting over” with opioids. You’re hardwired for addiction, and that’s where drugs will instantly take you.
If you’re reading this and think you may have a problem with opioids, know that you’re not alone. You are not in control over your life right now, so there’s no reason to feel ashamed. The next steps are all about regaining control and ridding your life of opioids. Find a medication-assisted treatment center in your area to help make this transition as smooth as possible.