Is Opiate Addiction a Disease?

Is opiate addiction a disease?

Is opiate addiction a disease?

Opiates are a category of drug made from opium poppies. Also included in this category are semi-synthetic chemical derivatives of alkaloids such as morphine, codeine, heroin and thebaine. Some specific medications that fall within this class include Vicodin, OxyContin, Percocet, Kadian, and Avinza. In many cases, Hydrocodone products are most commonly prescribed for a variety of painful conditions, including dental and injury-related pain.[1] Research has shown that emergency room deaths by opiate overdose have now surpassed overdoses from cocaine or methamphetamine, combined.[2] Most opioids are originally prescribed as a way to treat pain. As an individual builds up a tolerance to the opioid, more is taken to achieve the same level of high.

Signs of Opiate Addiction

The primary reason individuals take opiates is for pain relief. However, opiates also reduce anxiety and can give the user a sense of euphoria. When a form of an opiate is prescribed, it is often taken by mouth. A common sign of addiction is when a user takes more than is prescribed or even smokes, snorts or injects the opiate. When opiates are used in high doses or for extended periods of time, the nerve cells in the brain stop producing their own natural painkillers and stop functioning normally. Because the body is given the opiate on a regular basis, it stops producing endorphins and causes a physical dependency.

Is Opiate Addiction a Disease?

Addiction is defined as a disease, but many people do not approach it in that manner. Some people believe that opiate addiction is a sign of weakness and that with more control or stronger willpower a person can overcome addiction. The truth is that opiate addiction is a chronic disease. Addiction is similar to other chronic, relapsing diseases, such as diabetes, asthma, or heart disease. Thankfully, drug addiction can be managed successfully.[3] Addiction affects individuals from every socioeconomic group, gender, age and intelligence level. Addiction causes chemical changes in the brain, and children of addicts are more likely to develop an addiction than those of non-addicts for both genetic and environmental reasons.

Treatment for Opiate Addiction

In many cases, a supervised detox is a necessary first step to treat the disease of opiate addiction. However, detox alone is insufficient for substance abuse. Without aftercare treatment, the majority of opiate abusers resume taking drugs. Residential rehab is highly recommended for the following reasons:

  • The person is removed from the stresses and responsibilities of everyday life and is able to focus exclusively on recovery.
  • The person is offered a safe and comfortable environment.
  • The facility is comfortable, clean and offers space to relax and heal.
  • The focus is not on the addiction but rather in helping the person learn to live without substance abuse.
  • Treatment enables individuals to be productive members in society.

Get Help for Opiate Addiction

If you or a loved one struggles with opiate addiction, we can help. Just call our helpline and we will give you the needed information that will allow you to focus on solutions instead of definitions. Then you will be in a better place to make a good decision about opiate addiction treatment. Let us help you explore some of the options that are available to you. Our toll-free helpline is available 24 hours a day. We are here to help, and we want to help.

[1] What Are Opioids?

[2] The Opiate Addict In Your Office. Albrecht, Steve. Published February 17th, 2014.

[3] Drug Facts: Understanding Drug Use and Addiction.