Opiate Addiction VS. Opiate Dependence
Opiates are powerful painkillers that cause sedation and euphoria and are commonly abused. These include OxyContin , morphine, codeine, Fentanyl, Dilaudid, Lorcet, Lortab, heroin and Stadol. Opiate addiction is caused by persistent use of opiates and is thought to be a disorder of the central nervous system. Once addicted, many opiate users feel completely powerless and continue to use despite potentially dangerous or life-threatening consequences. Unlike some drugs, which can elicit one or the other, opiates can cause both addiction and physical dependence.
Though a fine line separates the two, researchers say physical dependency occurs when repeated use alters reward pathways in the brain. Chronic use can lead to tolerance, characterized by a patient’s need to consume more and more of the drug to achieve the same pain relief. For those who are dependent on opiates, withdrawing from them can be extremely difficult and intense. Many are unable to kick the dependency without medical intervention. Symptoms can include nausea, vomiting, chills, insomnia, muscle and bone pain, tremors, slowed breathing, constipation and headaches.
Breaking Down The Terms: Definitions Of Addiction/Dependency
Although sometimes used interchangeably, the terms “addiction” and “dependency” are clinically thought of as two separate things. The National Institutes of Health says drug addiction is present when a person compulsively uses a drug despite negative and dangerous consequences and effects. A physical drug dependence means a person needs the substance to function and can have intense cravings, according to the organization.
Dependence does not always entail addiction. For example, some blood pressure medications can cause physical dependence but don’t lead to addiction, it says, and drugs like cocaine can be addicting without physical dependence. Withdrawing from cocaine can produce depression and other psychological changes, but don’t leave users with physical problems such as chills and other flu-like symptoms. The American Academy of Pain Medicine, the American Pain Society and the American Society of Addiction Medicine, in a collaborative effort, have adopted the following definitions:
- Addiction: “Addiction is a primary, chronic, neurobiologic disease, with genetic, psychosocial, and environmental factors influencing its development and manifestations. It is characterized by behaviors that include one or more of the following: impaired control over drug use, compulsive use, continued use despite harm, and craving.”
- Physical dependence: “Physical dependence is a state of adaptation that is manifested by a drug class specific withdrawal syndrome that can be produced by abrupt cessation, rapid dose reduction, decreasing blood level of the drug, and/or administration of an antagonist.”
Addiction is a chronic disorder with a strong potential for relapse. This means users who are trying to get clean fall back into old patterns of drug use and abuse. Because opiates are so potent, they have a particularly high relapse rate. Strong cravings and other withdrawal symptoms can trigger relapse, even after a period of abstinence.
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