Addiction is a chronic, relapsing disorder characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use despite negative consequences. It is the most severe type of substance use disorder, but it is treatable.
Addiction happens because drugs can alter important brain networks that are necessary for life-sustaining functions. How does this happen? Opioids and other drugs cause large amounts of the chemical dopamine to be released in the brain, causing changes in neural connectivity that encourages the brain to seek drugs again at the expense of other healthier goals and activities.
When a person tries to have that feeling again, or more often, they can continue to seek drugs at the expense of other important things in their life, such as relationships and work. With repeated exposure to opioids, the brain adapts to the presence of the drug, making it difficult to feel pleasure from anything else. This brief video explains why drugs are so hard to quit.
If people continue to use opioids despite negative consequences, they likely have an opioid use disorder (OUD). Here are some of the signs used to diagnose an OUD:
Use these Step-by-Step Guides to find information on: