If you take opioids all the time, you can become tolerant to them. This means that more of the drug is needed to obtain its effects. It is also possible to become dependent on opioids. This means that if you stop taking them, you will feel sick. This sickness is called withdrawal. Dependence is not the same as addiction, but sometimes dependence leads to addiction. The signs of addiction are:
- Craving—The mind develops an overwhelming desire for the drug.
- Loss of control—It becomes harder to say no to using the drug. Use is compulsive and continues even though the drug causes harm.
Tolerance and dependence are common side effects of prescribed opioid medication that can be managed under a doctor’s care. Tolerance and dependence also are side effects from misuse of opioids. Addiction is not likely to develop in a person using medication properly, but this sometimes happens. Addiction usually occurs through misuse. Some people are at higher risk of addiction because of their genes, temperament, or personal situation.
Not everyone who uses opioids gets addicted. However, it is difficult to stop using opioids after you have become addicted because the cravings are so strong and the fear of withdrawal is so great.