Warning Signs of Opioid Use

Tolerance vs. Dependence vs. Addiction

Girl imageLong-term use of prescription opioids, even as prescribed by a doctor, can cause some people to develop a tolerance. Tolerance means they need a higher dose and/or a more frequent dose of the drug to get the desired effects.

Drug dependence occurs with repeated use, causing the neurons to adapt so they only function normally in the presence of the drug. The absence of the drug causes several physiological reactions, ranging from mild to severe to potentially life-threatening.

Drug addiction is a chronic disease characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use despite harmful consequences and long-lasting changes in the brain. These changes can result in harmful behaviors by those misusing the drugs.

Some warning signs of an opioid addiction (or an opioid use disorder) include:

  • The strong desire to use opioids
  • The inability to control or reduce use of opioids
  • Development of a tolerance
  • Showing signs of withdrawal after stopping or reducing use of opioids
  • Difficulty meeting social and/or work commitments
  • Experiencing legal problems due to substance use
  • Spending large amounts of time accessing opioids