Learning About Addiction

Learning About Addiction

What Is Opioid Addiction?

Opioid addiction refers to dependence and abuse of drugs used to treat pain. It also include substances such as heroin, which is an illegal drug. Here’s what you should know about opioid addiction:

1. It’s a medical and social problem, and a condition that affects people from all walks of life.

2. According to data from 2008 to 2010, approximately 82% of people who use heroin reported that their initial drug was a prescription opioid.​

3. In 2010, there were more than 209 million prescriptions written for painkillers in the United States.

4. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, nearly all opioid-addicted people first believed they could stop using drugs on their own. Opioid addiction is a complex medical condition, one that’s considered a long-term brain disease.

The Science Behind Opioid Addiction

Physical changes to the brain may influence many of the harmful behaviors associated with addiction. Chronic drug use causes changes in the brain. These physical changes affect how the brain works and can be seen in a conventional MRI when you compare healthy individuals with those who abuse opioids. Images show how opioids alter regions of the brain that control impulses and motivation. 

Addiction is characterized not necessarily by physical dependence or withdrawn, but by compulsive repetition of an activity despite life-damaging consequences. 

Taken together, physiological changes to the brain caused by opioid abuse affect judgement, learning, memory, and behavior. 

Opioid addiction is a complex health condition. It is not a personal or moral failing. 

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