How Long Does It Take to Get Addicted to Opioids?
When determining how long it takes to get addicted to opioids, it’s important to understand the potency of these drugs and medications. Prescription opioids and illicit substances that fall into this category, such as heroin, are typically very powerful. This means it doesn’t take long to develop a dependence or full-blown addiction to opioid use. Even if you’re given prescription opioids by a doctor, you may find yourself in the grips of opioid abuse for simply trying to deal with chronic pain. This means you may also have to contend with withdrawal symptoms from opioid use.
While there are variances that contribute to opioid use and addiction, general guidelines state that it takes roughly 5 days to develop a dependency and/or addiction to opioid drugs or prescription opioids. In fact, according to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, roughly 80% of people using heroin started with prescription opioids.
Understanding Opioid Addiction: Timeline, Factors, and Prevention
Numerous factors contribute to the likelihood of developing dependence or outright opioid use addiction. From genetic factors to social causes, the challenge is that because some opioid medications are prescribed to deal with chronic pain and other health issues, you may be unwittingly exposed to substance abuse and subsequent addiction without knowing it.
The impact that opioid addiction has on individuals and families is extensive. Opioid overdoses have continued to climb in recent years, especially with the addition of fentanyl to illicit heroin products. Opioid use can be a slippery slope for someone seeking long-term pain relief, as doing so can easily become a full-fledged drug addiction. Prescription pain relievers that don’t contain opioids have begun to take on a more prominent role as medical professionals struggle to bring opioid use and opioid misuse under control.
Factors Influencing the Timeline of Opioid Addiction
There are a number of factors that can influence drug abuse where opioid use is concerned. More than anything else, the extent to which you use opioid pain medications and the amount of medication being used contributes to your risk of addiction. The longer you take prescription opioids, the stronger your opioid withdrawal symptoms will be when you try to stop and therefore, the more likely it is you’ll move into opioid abuse. This may lead to an accidental opioid overdose, which is a common challenge for those dealing with opioid abuse.
- Genetics and predisposition: Genetics are a factor in opioid abuse, as your genes may be encoded to make you more susceptible to physical dependence on pain medications and other opioid uses. The receptive nature of your opioid receptors is also a factor in opioid dependence.
- Mental and emotional factors: The temporary high you experience from opioid use may erroneously lead you to believe you can manage your mental and emotional distress. However, the withdrawal symptoms you experience can actually exacerbate this emotional and mental distress.
- Family history: If you have a family history of opioid abuse or other addictions, you may find you’re predisposed to addiction because of that history. This makes opioid dependence and abuse more likely for you than someone without this family history of opioid use.
- Environmental influences: Environmental exposure is also a factor in drug abuse, especially where opioid addiction is concerned. The more you’re exposed to drug abuse in your environment, the more likely you are to make the choice to engage in opioid use.
Addiction Rates for Different Types of Opioids
As is the case with other substances, addiction rates vary among those taking opioids. The way your opioid receptors work is one factor; your history of substance abuse is another. Addiction may also be based on the strength of the opioid in question and the amount prescribed for medical purposes. These variances account for the likelihood of an overdose among those dealing with opioid dependence.
Commonly Abused Prescription Opioids
- Oxycodone: Also known as Percocet and OxyContin, this opioid medication is dangerous because users often crush or snort these pills to bypass the time-controlled feature meant to stop you from having too much of it in your bloodstream at once. This can create the circumstances for an accidental opioid overdose. According to the National Drug Intelligence Center, at least 1 million Americans have used oxycodone for nonmedical purposes at least one time.
- Hydrocodone: Sold under the brand names Vicodin and Lortab, the Drug Enforcement Administration reports that hydrocodone is the most commonly prescribed opioid in the country. Of increasing concern is the particular opioid misuse among school-aged children.
- Hydromorphone: According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, hydromorphone (sold under the brand name Dilaudid) has the same high abuse potential as other forms of opioids. Before oxycodone became one of the leading opioid medications in terms of drug abuse, hydromorphone was the preferred opioid.
- Fentanyl: Sold under the brand names Sublimaze and Subsys, the fentanyl threat is a fast-growing one that’s responsible for a vast majority of drug overdoses in recent years. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), this synthetic opioid is up to 50 times stronger than heroin, which means an accidental overdose is much more likely with its use.
Illicit Opioids and Their Addiction Potential
- Heroin: There’s no medical use for heroin, an illicit drug that can be injected or snorted. One of the challenges with modern-day versions of this drug is that it’s often laced with fentanyl without the user’s knowledge. This is one of the reasons opioid overdoses have skyrocketed recently and why opioid use continues to be a major challenge in the United States and around the world.
Early Warning Signs of Opioid Addiction
The early warning signs of opioid addiction start with dependence. This is when your body begins to rely on the drug, and you may find you need increasing amounts of it to get the same impact as before. You may experience preliminary withdrawal symptoms after using prescription medications for chronic pain. These feelings can be unpleasant enough to make you decide to keep using the medication.
Physical, behavioral or psychological opioid dependence is an early warning sign of impending opioid addiction and possible opioid abuse down the road. Moreover, increased dependence can lead to life-altering withdrawal symptoms.
Are All Drugs Addictive?
Due to their strength, all opioids have the potential to be addictive. This is one reason doctors have begun to take greater care when prescribing prescription pain relievers. Patients experiencing withdrawal symptoms are more likely to misuse pain medications. There are new non-opioid alternatives to help with chronic pain that deliver pain relief without the increased risk of opioid abuse.
Because of the extent to which people experience opioid dependence, it’s safer to consider all opioid drugs as having the potential to be addictive, even when they have a useful purpose as pain medications. This helps you avoid withdrawal symptoms and other impacts of substance abuse.
How Do People Get Addicted to Drugs?
Drug addiction manifests in many ways, but the overarching factor for this kind of addiction includes a predisposition to “getting a high” from opioid use and taking more than the prescribed amount for longer than necessary. In some instances, you may start taking opioids as prescribed and then increase your use as your body inadvertently develops a dependence.
If you have chronic pain that’s been largely uncontrolled, you may initially feel that prescribed opioids bring about lasting relief. However, prescription pain relievers in this category will always come with the risk of addiction, especially when you want to relieve withdrawal symptoms.
Take the Steps to Prevent Opioid Addiction
Avoiding opioid medications is one of the best ways to avoid physical dependence and everything else that comes with opioid use. However, the next best option is professional help with an opioid dependency or opioid use addiction that’s quickly spun out of control. Anchor Addiction and Wellness Center is here to help. Our trained staff understands the nuances of this addiction all too well and can customize a care plan that will have you on the path to recovery.