When a patient is prescribed opioid pain medication, short-term use and taken as prescribed should not cause addiction. With monitored doses of prescription opioids such as Oxycodone and Hydrocodone, addiction is not common, even for individuals in long-term treatment for chronic pain. Many patients will develop tolerance and need to take higher doses of their prescribed pain medications over time. It is normal for individual patients to develop a physical dependence, which would cause withdrawal symptoms if suddenly stopping their prescribed opioid medications.

When Opioid Misuse and Abuse Occurs

Addiction to opioids may occur quite rapidly with misuse and abuse of opiate medications: when taking more medication than prescribed several times a day and increasing doses. When injecting, smoking, or snorting opioid medications, this is especially true. Tolerance will build more rapidly.  When medications are abused for euphoric pleasure, addiction can also develop.

Opioid Pain Medication and Addiction

Potent, quick-acting or release opioids quickly imprint the memory of pleasure on the brain. Illegal opioids such as heroin reach the brain more rapidly than prescription opiates. Frequent use and abuse can lead to addiction especially when opiates are used in high doses.

Addiction Susceptibility Factors

There are several individual factors that can influence the period in which it will take a person to become addicted to opiates. The factors are: genetic susceptibility, stress levels, psychological issues, environmental factors, and metabolism.

The Addiction Cycle

Neuroscience suggests that the addiction process is a three-cycle stage starting with binge and intoxication, then withdrawal and negative effect, and preoccupation and anticipation.  The cycle becomes progressively more severe with continued substance use and abuse.  Dramatic changes in brain function reduce an individual’s ability to control their substance use. Opioid pain medication and addiction should not be an issue when medication is taken as prescribed.

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