The dependence of opioids is more common than is discussed. Women and men of all races, ethnicities, educational levels, and ages are susceptible to opioids. No specific group of people, gender or age is protected from opioid dependence.
An opioid is a drug that is either created from opium, or is chemically related to opium. Some prescription pain medications are opioids (hydrocodone, oxycodone, morphine, codeine). Heroin is also an opioid. Someone is considered opioid dependent when repeated opioid use is needed to avoid feeling bad and this use continues even when it causes negative effects on the user.
Any type of drug use usually begins as a choice but frequent use can catapult into addiction by causing the brain to think that the drug is necessary to exist. Many drugs, opioids included, cause changes in the brain that can cause cravings for years after the drug usage is discontinued. Opioids attach themselves to opioid receptors (specific places where molecules of opioid drugs or medications attach and begin to exert their effect) in the brain. This stimulates the release of dopamine (a naturally occurring chemical that helps cause feelings of pleasure). Eventually the opioid detaches from the receptors and causes cravings and withdrawal, making the user want to experience the feeling again.
The need to avoid withdrawal and appease cravings can be so intense that it can cause someone to do something he wouldn't ordinarily do to obtain more of the drug or similar ones. People who want to discontinue the use of opioids usually find it to be extremely difficult. For these reasons, opioid dependence can affect one's behavior.
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