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How Opiate Tolerance Leads to Addiction

When a prescription for opiates is given to help alleviate pain, it is not uncommon for pain to persist and the patient require a higher dose at some point -if the original dose is no longer having the same effect. It is known that a person’s body can quickly build opiate tolerance, but if not managed properly and the medication is abused, there is a possibility that it can lead to addiction.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, tolerance occurs when the person no longer responds to the drug in the way that person initially responded. Stated another way, it takes a higher dose of the drug to achieve the same level of response achieved initially.

How Tolerance can Lead to Addiction

When the original size of an opiate drug no longer has the same initial effect on an individual, they may often end up taking more. Either a doctor can authorize a dose increase, or the individual might decide to do it on their own. Other individuals may simply be obtaining the drug illegally. When opiates are used in this manner –without a doctor’s approval- it leads to abuse of opiates.

opiate abuse

Developing a tolerance means that you need more of the opiates to feel their effects.

Tolerance builds quickly, and taking the drug more often than recommended, obtaining it illegally, or using it in any other way other than prescribed is drug abuse. With continued use they can develop physical and psychological dependence to opiate type drugs. They can start feeling and thinking that without the drug they cannot function properly throughout the day.

If they miss a dose, or have no access to any more opiates –they may begin to crave it and start experiencing withdrawal symptoms. If the dependence to opiates has become severe, they can start acting anxious, and try to do whatever they can to get more of the drug to feel better. Their abuse to opiates and severe dependence may now be an addiction.

Potential withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Anxiety
  • Restlessness
  • Nausea
  • Intense cravings for opiates
  • Hot and cold sweats
  • Low energy
  • Muscle aches and pain

Indications & signs of opiate addiction include:

  • Mood swings
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Irritability
  • Forge prescriptions to get more opiates
  • Stealing money to buy it illegally
  • Lying to others about use
  • Loss of interest in activities
  • Cannot stop thinking about using the drug

Not all users that build tolerance to opiates mean they will become addicted. Some individual may have persistent symptoms of pain and require an adjustment in dose. However, those that decide to self-medicate are abusing opiates. These types of drugs can be addictive. Users can quickly build opiate tolerance and develop dependence for them.

Getting Treatment for Opiate Addiction

If you or someone you love has become addicted to opiates, or think you might be, then it will be in your best interest to seek substance abuse treatment. By calling and talking to an addiction specialist about your opiate use, you or your loved one can get information about treatment options, and other available resources to help you get on the path to becoming healthier and drug-free.

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