6 Signs That You Might Be Addicted to Opioids

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What to know

Opioids trigger the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that helps control the brain’s pleasure and reward centers. This reward system can become overstimulated when opioids are taken frequently or in large doses, which can lead to drug-seeking behavior and addiction in some people. Addiction occurs when neither your mind nor your body can function without the drug and use becomes compulsive. Here’s what to watch out for.

  1. Preoccupation with your prescription

You often think about the medication and how to get more. You request refills from your doctor, despite the fact that your condition has not gotten worse, or has even improved. You make excuses about why you still need the opioids.

  1. Needing more to feel the effects

You start to need higher doses to get the pain relief or the "high" you're seeking.

  1. Loss of control

You feel as if you can’t control the urge to take the drug. You may go to great lengths to get more medication—calling for early refills or reporting your medication lost or stolen, for example.

  1. Risk-taking

You keep using the drug without a prescription. You seek illegal sources for opioids or even consider stealing them from a friend or loved one.

  1. Harm to personal and professional life

You keep using the drug, even if it’s causing trouble with your health, money, work, or relationships. You may no longer engage in activities you once enjoyed, or find yourself withdrawing from friends and family.

  1. Inability to quit

Have you decided to quit a few times but never quite managed to make it happen? If you do stop for a day, do you find yourself getting sweaty, anxious, achy, nauseous, or agitated within several hours of your last dose—prompting you to begin using again?

Where to find help

If you think you (or a family member) may be addicted, your doctor can prescribe medicine to help ease cravings for a particular drug and refer you for counseling or to a treatment center. Organizations such as Narcotics Anonymous and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration can also help you quit.