Opioid Dependence

Opioids are drugs that are either derived from opiates (drugs created directly from opium, such as morphine or codeine) or are chemically related to opiates or opium. Examples of opioids include some prescription painkillers (such as oxycodone/oxycontin,hydrocodone, buprenorphine, methadone, and heroin).

How Common Is Opioid Dependence?

Opioid dependence is more common than you may think. You are not alone. No one group of people is immune to opiate addiction. Men and women of all ages, races, ethnic groups, and educational levels can become dependent on opioids.

How Common Is Misuse of Prescription Pain Medications?

According to the 2003 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH):

  • 4.7 million people ages 12 and older were misusing pain relievers in 2003
  • By 2003, 31.2 million people ages 12 and older had used pain relievers non-medically in their lifetime
  • In 2001 alone, almost 2.5 million people used pain relievers nonmedically for the first time. This is a dramatic 335% increase from 573,000 new users in 1990.

How Common Is Heroin Use?

In 2002, more than 400,000 people ages 12 and over reported using heroin in the previous year. An estimated 3.7 million people reported having used heroin at some time in their lives. Recently, inexpensive, high-purity heroin has become more available. Rather than injecting, many new users are smoking or snorting heroin, with the misperception that these routes are less addictive. In addition, use among younger adults is growing in many suburban communities.

Why Are Some People More Likely to Become Dependent?

Substances such as opioids that produce euphoria are considered to have high reinforcement potential, which increases the likelihood that they will be taken repeatedly or abused, although a majority of people who take these powerfully reinforcing drugs do not become dependent on them. Although the specific causes vary from person to person, certain factors, such as the drug itself, genetics, and the individual’s environment, are known to be important in the development of opiate addiction. Some people appear to be genetically predisposed to dependence, raising the possibility that susceptibility to the disease may be hereditary. Also, individual absorption levels of the drug into the blood can vary widely for different people, thus causing different effects. Lastly, substance abuse, which can lead to dependence, is often influenced by societal norms and peer pressure.

Why Do Prescription Pain Medications Result in Dependence in Some People?

Even when used properly, medications prescribed for acute, chronic, or postoperative pain can cause symptoms of tolerance and withdrawal, which can stimulate you to want to take more, setting up the cycle of craving. Tolerance means that you need more of the drug to get the same pain relief. Just because you have developed tolerance for a drug does not mean that you are dependent on it or are abusing it. Physical dependence is typically associated with tolerance, and also with withdrawal, an adverse physiological effect that occurs when blood/tissue concentrations of a drug decline. Symptoms of withdrawal include extreme nausea, generalized pain, sweating, headache, irritability, and shaking. Psychological dependence involves continued drug use for reasons other than tolerance and withdrawal, such as to experience a drug’s pleasurable effects. People with a clinical need for pain relief should not be transferred to Suboxone. Suboxone is not indicated for the treatment of pain.

Pat Moore Foundation's alcohol & drug addiction treatment programs are licensed and certified by The State of California. Pat Moore Foundation patients have access to opiate and opioid detoxficiation provided by a third party medical corporation that uses suboxone for the detoxification process. Our individual homes are on a unique co-ed campus where we offer gender specific treatment. We are located in Costa Mesa, in Orange County, Southern California, close to Newport Beach and Huntington Beach, and only an hour's drive from Los Angeles and San Diego. To speak with a counselor, please call us 24-hours at the number above, or if you'd like us to contact you, send a confidential message online by filling out our online form.

Note: All medical services are administered by medical professionals, which are facilitated and operated solely under the jurisdiction of a separate medical corporation.