There are many different ways an individual can become addicted to opiates. Some people get prescribed opiates from their doctors for pain, then after a few months or years find they can’t live without the drug, and will do almost anything to continue using.
Others start off just like I did; taking prescription opiates pills for recreational use to feel a “buzz.” Then there are the people that use heroin as their first opiate. This is uncommon but it still happens. Even less uncommon is when people start off using methadone or Suboxone for recreational use, then get addicted to the very drugs opiate addicts use to try and get clean!
One thing is for sure, the majority of individuals don’t realize the seriousness of what they’ve gotten into when they start using opiates on a daily basis. Here are just a few examples of ways people become addicted.
Let’s imagine a well-liked high school senior named Cyrus goes to a party on a Friday night. Cyrus has never really enjoyed drinking, so at parties he usually just sips on a Red Bull with ice in a glass, so it looks like he has a mixed drink. Within ten minutes of arriving at the party, a guy named Mike who is in Cyrus’s English class offers him a 10 mg tablet of Vicodin. Mike says he took a handful from his grandfather’s large prescription bottle, and convinces Cyrus that it will make him feel euphoric and relaxed.
Cyrus normally experiences a bit of social anxiety at parties due to him not being drunk like everyone else. Since he wants to have a good time, and has heard from many friends that Vicodin is harmless, he accepts Mike’s offer and swallows the pill with his energy drink.
An hour later the effects come on. Cyrus has no social anxiety whatsoever, and experiences feelings of euphoria and happiness. He is amazed at his newfound ability to flirt with girls, who appear to be loving his smooth confidence and charm. Two hours into the Vicodin high, Mike comes up to Cyrus and asks how he is feeling. Cyrus tells Mike that he feels better than ever before. Cyrus then asks the rhetorical question:
“Where have these pills been all my life?!”
Cyrus starts buying Vicodin from Mike and other people on a regular basis. After taking Vicodin daily for six months, he can no longer find anyone to buy Vicodin from. He goes about his day and wonders why he is starting to feel sick.
Cyrus thinks to himself, “Could I be catching a bug?”
What he doesn’t yet realize is that the withdrawal syndrome is slowly setting in, and soon he will be in utter agony of body and mind.
That same day Cyrus runs out of Vicodin, a 35 year old woman named Aveena goes to see her doctor for issues with chronic pain. She tells the physician about her debilitating pain, and he prescribes her 10 mg of Percocet, to be taken four times daily. Aveena enjoys the much-needed pain relief, however, she doesn’t particularly enjoy the side effects the drug gives her.
After taking Percocet daily for one month, she complains about sedation, constipation, on-and-off irritability, decreased sex drive, and red, flushed facial skin. Aveena continues taking Percocet despite the side effects, as she would rather have these minor nuisances over the debilitating pain.
After a few months, Aveena notices that she is only receiving about 50% of the pain relief she enjoyed in the past.
This occurs while she has a very busy week of work and other responsibility’s. Aveena decides to take a few extra pills here and there to ease the pain, thus enabling her to accomplish her daily tasks. As a result of taking these extra pills over her prescribed four daily, she runs out of Percocet two days before she is due for a refill.
The first day is hard, but she gets through it. The second day is the worst pain and psychological terror she has ever experienced.
Her boyfriend Luke tells her she is going through opioid withdrawal. He recognizes this because his brother Todd, who he used to be very close to, is now a heroin addict. She goes online and Googles the phrase “timeline and symptoms of Percocet withdrawal.”
Aveena reads an informative article that covers Percocet withdrawal in detail. Meanwhile, Luke calls his brother Todd and asks for advice on what Aveena can do at home to relieve her symptoms. Todd says he will be over in ten minutes and quickly hangs up the phone.
Fifteen minutes later, Todd arrives with a small film that looks similar to a Listerine Breath Strip.
He says it’s a popular medication called Suboxone, and tells Aveena and Luke that it stops opioid withdrawal symptoms quickly. Todd shows Aveena how to administer the drug under her tongue, and she is amazed how quickly her symptoms vanish.
Five years later, Aveena is online again, only now she is searching for ways to get off Suboxone without withdrawal symptoms, after numerous failed attempts to come off the drug.
These two examples of Cyrus and Aveena are just a glimpse at the variety of ways people can end up physiologically dependent upon opiates. In both of these cases, taking the opiate drug for the first time seemed relatively harmless, and neither one of them ever considered the ultimate result could be addiction.
I would classify both of these examples as mild cases of opiate dependence. Neither one of them took a large amount of opiates, and they both took the pills orally, as they are meant to be taken. On the opposite end of the spectrum, you’ll see much more dangerous behaviors.
For example, let’s imagine a 16 year old girl named Jade loses both of her parents in a fatal automobile accident. She moves in with her grandparents who live in a small trailer park in Kentucky, where many of the adults and teenagers abuse Roxicodone. Within a few weeks, Jade starts dating an 18 year old guy named Mike, who everyone calls “Pill Boy.”
Mike makes a living by selling 30 mg Roxicodone pills, commonly referred to as “Roxi’s” by Mike and his customers.
He would make a lot of money selling drugs, but he has a 10 pill daily habit, which significantly cuts into his profits. One night Jade is having a really hard time accepting her parents’ death while Mike is crushing up a few Roxi’s to sniff. He offers her a small line of pill dust, and says that it will help numb the pain.
Jade grabs the straw from his hand, places it up to her nose, and snorts approximately 20 mg of the narcotic painkilling drug.
All of her pain, sadness, and grief dissipate within seconds. She is instantly hooked to the feeling the drug gives her, and 10 months later she is shooting up two grams of heron daily. Her grandparents soon catch her in the act, and a week later they drop her off at a detox center, where she will have a medically-managed withdrawal, then transfer to a 30-day inpatient treatment program.
As you can see, there are many ways people get addicted to opiates. Everyone knows heroin is something to stay away from, however, many people that start out using prescription painkillers don’t realize how powerful and addicting these pills can be. Worse still, many of these individuals “graduate” to using heroin. According to ASAM, Four in five new heroin users started out misusing prescription painkillers.
Note: This content was taken from Lesson 2, Activity 3 of the online course: Ultimate Opiate Detox.