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Why Do People Become Addicted to Opiates?

Opiates, also known as opioids, are extremely addictive and can lead a person’s life down a dangerous path of destruction and misery. Start healing from addiction with professional guidance and support.

People become addicted to opiates for various reasons. For me, it happened so fast, and by the time I realized what was happening, I was already addicted. Back in 2000, I injured my neck on a roller coaster. When I got home from my trip, I saw my primary care doctor, and she prescribed me a mild opiate pain reliever and a muscle relaxer. At the time of my injury, I had untreated depression and anxiety, so I continued to take the medication even after my neck had stopped hurting. My doctor continued to refill the prescription.

A year after, I injured my neck, and it had stopped hurting, and I continued to take the opiate to treat my depression and anxiety. Addiction and mental illness run in my family, but I had no idea I was at such a high risk of developing an addiction, or I would have never accepted that prescription. Also, I blamed my doctor for continuing to refill the opiate for me when she was the professional and should have seen what was happening. That roller coaster ride and injury led me through 20 years of struggling with addiction.

Opiates Are Very Addictive and Dangerous

Anyone who takes opioids (also known as opiates interchangeably) is at risk of developing an addiction. However, some people are at a greater risk depending on family history and other underlying mental health disorders. Predicting who is more vulnerable to eventual abuse and addiction is impossible. Opioids are responsible for most overdose deaths across the country, and that trend doesn’t look like it will change anytime soon.

Opiates are Controlled Substances that are derived from opium, which is a chemical that naturally occurs in poppy seeds and plants. Opiates are used to treat mild to severe pain, and due to their intense calming effect, they have a tremendously high rate of abuse, which can lead to addiction. Opiates produce euphoric and tranquil effects when taken in amounts larger than prescribed. Opiates work on the central nervous system. They tell your brain that you are not in pain, whereas a pain reliever such as aspirin or ibuprofen goes to the site and relieves your pain by reducing the inflammation.

Opiates create artificial endorphins in the brain, which produce warm, good feelings in the user in the early stages of use. Over time, opiates trick the brain into naturally stopping these endorphins’ production. At this point, the only way an opiate addict can experience positive feelings is by continuing to use opiates. This process is why opiates are so addictive.

Opiate Addiction Causes Depression

When the body stops producing its endorphins, a person feels sick and depressed whenever they are not taking their opiate of choice. At this point, taking the opiate is no longer about experiencing positive feelings as it is to avoid negative feelings and symptoms. When this occurs, the person becomes addicted to opiates.

There are various opiates, prescription and nonprescription, for mild to severe pain relief. Opiates are meant for short-term pain relief and use only. If taken longer than a few days, your chance of becoming dependent or addicted increases tremendously. Heroin, which is a street drug, is also considered an opiate. Due to the regulations on controlled substances, especially opiates, in the United States, heroin abuse and overdoses have risen substantially. Here is a list of some of the common prescription opiates available:

  • Codeine
  • Darvocet
  • Demerol
  • Dilaudid
  • Fentanyl
  • Hydrocodone
  • Methadone
  • Morphine
  • Oxycodone

Withdrawal Symptoms As a Result of Opioid Abuse

What happens if someone stops taking an opiate after they have been taking it long-term? They will experience withdrawal symptoms. The symptoms can start a few hours after the last dose and can be extremely uncomfortable. Many people will continue to take the opiate, so they don’t have to experience terrible withdrawals. Below are some of the most common symptoms of opiate withdrawal:

  • Muscle pain
  • Leg cramps
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Sweating
  • Restlessness
  • Anxiety
  • General discomfort
  • Watery eyes
  • Dilated pupils
  • Abdominal pains and cramping
  • Excessive yawning
  • Insomnia
  • Tremors

Treatment for Opioid Addiction

Opiate addiction and withdrawal is a terrible thing for someone to have to go through. It can happen so fast and take years of a person’s life away before they know it. If you or someone you love needs help with opiate addiction, please contact our addiction specialists around the clock. We will be happy to guide you to lasting recovery with our solution-focused opioid addiction treatment programs.


  1. Death Rate Maps & Graphs | Drug Overdose | CDC Injury Center. Published October 7, 2022. Accessed January 18, 2023.
  2. Drug Scheduling. Accessed January 18, 2023.
  3. Shah M, Huecker MR. Opioid Withdrawal. In: StatPearls. StatPearls Publishing; 2022. Accessed January 18, 2023.

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