Opioid addiction

About opioid addiction

Opioid addiction is not a weakness, it's a disease.

Living with opioid addiction, also called Opioid Use Disorder (OUD), can leave people feeling trapped. That's because opioids "hijack" the brain and change how it normally functions and processes reward.

Knowing why quitting is so hard can help when you're ready to consider treatment. Learn how opioid addiction can be treated.

Find a buprenorphine treatment provider

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Agency (SAMHSA) also provides treatment information. Visit the SAMHSA website to find a facility near you that can provide treatment based on patient-specific criteria. Download steps for using SAMHSA's 
Treatment Services Locator
.

For more information on how to find a facility, call INSUPPORT® at 1-844-467-7778.

Our brains are wired to seek reward.

When we do something we enjoy, like eating a delicious meal or having a good time with family and friends, a chemical called dopamine is released in our brains and we feel pleasure or a sense of reward.

Everyone's brain is wired to seek rewards. This is how we learn what makes us feel good, and what drives us to repeat naturally rewarding things.

Opioids change the brain

When someone takes opioids, dopamine is released. Opioids trigger a surge of dopamine, causing an increased sense of pleasure compared to “natural rewards.” The desire to either feel pleasure or avoid negative emotions becomes a powerful driver to take opioids again and again. Over time, things that were enjoyable natural rewards can’t compete with the effects of opioids.

This process impacts brain regions that oversee reward, decision-making, self-control, and learning. Together, all of these changes can make quitting seem out of a person's control.

The cycle of opioid addiction

Once the brain is hijacked, these 3 stages can keep people using opioids.

Use

Taking opioids and feeling high, feeling relaxed, or escaping bad feelings.

Withdrawal

Experiencing negative physical and emotional symptoms after stopping opioids.

Craving

An intense desire for opioids to experience pleasure or feel “normal.” This can become all-consuming.

Getting out of the cycle

While opioid addiction is a chronic disease, it’s possible to stop using illicit opioids and make positive changes in your life. Don’t give up.

There are medications for the physical symptoms, and counseling options to help with emotions and behaviors. Find out about treatment options.

You don't have to manage opioid addiction on your own. Treatment can help. Learn more about it and talk to a treatment provider.

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