January 17, 2019 Felicia Durling

Understanding Opiate Addiction 

Opiate addiction is sweeping the country, mostly unbeknownst to those receiving prescriptions for narcotic painkillers. Though doctors are supposed to advise their patients on the high addiction risk of these powerful drugs, the awareness being built around how harmful they can be is still very minimal. Additionally, and most unfortunately, doctors receive a benefit in the form of monetary reward for prescribing these opiate drugs. To the unknowing patient, a simple prescription for helping ease pain can turn into a painful, life-threatening addiction.


Knowing the difference between the different types of narcotic opiate painkillers can help create an advantage over what is expected to be a confused state, easy to push into a certain direction. Almost all prescription painkillers are derived from morphine and the opium plant, making them similar to heroin. Indeed, many refer to these pills as prescription heroin. Despite the name, the drug is essentially the same and equally dangerous.

Opiate Addiction

Due to the opioid character of these drugs, they are high tolerance-building and rapidly aid in developing a physical dependency. Just a few doses beyond what is prescribed can alter the chemistry of the brain and start sending misdirected signals to the body. When opiates are taken in the body, they affect the central nervous system and overproduce the neurotransmitter dopamine which communicates pleasure to the rest of the brain. Stimulating the reward center, the brain begins associating the opioid molecules with reward and pleasure, which it likes. The more of it that’s taken, the more the brain likes it and the more the brain craves. Tolerance creates marks in quantity where, in order for the brain to get those pleasurable dopamine sensations, it needs more of the opiates to achieve it. Seemingly harmless, a patient may decide to take two instead of one, just for a few doses. The cycle begins.

Stopping at nothing to be rewarded, the brain creates sensations of craving, not only in the thought process but physiologically as well. Symptoms of withdrawal begin to show when the body is used as the brain’s messenger to indicate the desperate need it has grown for receiving more opiates through the prescription painkillers that have now been abused. Typical opiate withdrawal symptoms include aching muscles, restlessness and heightened irritability, anxiety and depression, nausea or stomach cramping, and a fixated preoccupation on obtaining more drugs at any cost. Once this obsession begins to interfere with the daily functioning of normal life, an addiction has taken place, requiring regular abuse of opiate prescription painkiller drugs to cope.


If you are suffering from addiction to opiates, do not lose hope. We have faith that you can recover. Call the Center for Life Change today to learn about our Intensive Outpatient Program and how we can be of service in helping your recovery. We believe in more than rehabilitation. At C4LC, we believe in transformation. Call 951-775-4000 for more information.

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