What is Opioid Addiction?

Learn more about this epidemic gripping the nation.

what is opioid addiction

Talk about the opioid epidemic in America has been all over the news recently. It is an issue of vital concern affecting Americans today, and with so much information available, it can be challenging to know what is good and what is bad information. What is opioid addiction? In this guide, we will discuss how this addiction is a disease that leads to lifelong struggle when not properly treated. 

Opioid addiction 101

Opioid addiction is not just a public and mental health issue in the United States. It is a worldwide problem that takes over the lives of those struggling with opioid dependence. What starts as a one-time trial can quickly become an everyday occurrence. While opioids can be effective for treating pain, they can also destroy lives when they are abused. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 70,237 people have died from an opioid overdose in the year 2017. Those numbers are set to rise in the years to come. Those who are addicted to opioids may begin their addiction with prescriptions from a doctor who is overprescribing. 

what is opioid addiction

What are opioids?

Opioids are a class of drugs that include prescription pain medications such as:

  • hydrocodone
  • oxycodone
  • codeine
  • morphine
  • fentanyl

Prescription opioids are considered legal medications when the person prescribed the painkillers takes them exactly as directed by medical professionals. However, heroin is an example of an illegal form of an opioid.

How do opioids work?

Simply put, opioids are chemically related to and interact with opioid receptors on nerve cells in the brain and body. Because of the way these drugs interact with the nerve cells, they can both relieve pain and produce euphoric feelings.

Opioids are recognized as generally safe by doctors for short-term use. However, since opioids may produce euphoric feelings, they can become habit-forming. When someone becomes dependent upon opioid pain relievers, there is a higher likelihood of developing opioid addiction. In the case of opioid abuse, powerful painkillers can cause an overdose, which could lead to death.

What is opioid addiction?

So what is opioid addiction? Opioid addiction is the dependence upon legal or illegal opioid drugs. When a person becomes addicted, it is very difficult for that person to control or stop using the drugs, despite the harm that taking them may cause.

what is opioid addiction

Typically, drug addiction causes intense cravings for the drug. Often, people who have opioid addiction or another drug or alcohol addiction find it difficult to stop using the drug, even when they want to quit. Some people may be able to stop for a while before relapsing.

If you are concerned that you might have an opioid addiction, it’s important to remember that you don’t have to quit on your own. It will likely be challenging, but there are resources and support available when you are ready to address your opioid addiction.

What treatments are available for opioid addiction?

The first step you have to take is recognizing that you need help. The next step is reaching out for the help and support that you need.


  1. I am in so much pain I look forward to my
    Next Percocet which I take every 6 hours.l am 76 and I have been taking pain med
    For 30 years. It does not make me feel any
    Special way. It just gives me a little releif
    For a while. I have rumatoid arthritis and
    And I can’t walk.I don’t think I can make
    It without some pain med.As far as I
    Know it is not hurting me it gives me
    Much needed releif .I understand it is
    Given to too many joung people when

    • Gloria,

      Thank you for taking the time to share your experience. When pain medications are used as they are prescribed, they can be an important tool in managing pain. We are glad that you have found something that helps to manage your symptoms.


      Pain Resource Team


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