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Narcotic Abuse (cont.)

Difference Between Opioid Abuse, Dependence, and Addiction

There is somewhat of a continuum between opioid abuse, opioid dependence, and addiction. Individuals who use narcotics to the extent that they start to interfere with the person's ability to do routine activities or fulfill regular responsibilities at home, at school, or at work would be considered to be abusing opioids. Other signs that individuals are abusing opioids include maladaptive behaviors that impact adversely on relationships, worsening of interpersonal problems, or frequent involvement with legal problems related to opioid use.

Individuals who have opioid dependence often will manifest some of the following symptoms.

  • Ingestion of larger and larger amounts of opioids or for longer periods of time than intended
  • Desire or compulsion to take the drug with significant amount of time spent trying to obtain opioids
  • Withdrawal symptoms if the drug is stopped or the amount taken is reduced
  • The need for increased amounts of drug to achieve the original effects (tolerance)
  • Social, recreational, occupational, or pleasurable activities are neglected
  • Persistent use of narcotics even when evidence that is harmful to their body, mood, thinking, or actions
  • Addiction is elevated narcotic abuse that becomes a craving, with compulsive need to use opioids and often self-destructive behavior

Narcotic Abuse Causes

Narcotic drugs produce their effect by stimulating opioid receptors in the central nervous system and surrounding tissues.

The abuse of narcotics occurs as a result of the euphoria and sedation that narcotics produce within the central nervous system. Abusers of intravenously injected heroin describe the effects as a "rush" or orgasmic feeling followed by elation, relaxation, and then sedation or sleep.

Narcotics used for short-term medical conditions rarely require weaning since stopping the medication after a brief period rarely produces adverse effects. If circumstances allow, the dose for people using narcotics over an extended period of time for medical purposes is slowly lowered over a few weeks to prevent withdrawal symptoms. The goal is to wean individuals off narcotics so that they are pain-free or able to use a less potent nonnarcotic analgesic.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 1/7/2016
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