Do Opioids Cause Addiction?

Despite their effectiveness, many patients and health care providers are concerned about the possibilities that opioids may cause tolerance and addiction in patients.


Tolerance is actually a typical response to any type of medical intervention. After about two weeks on a medication your body becomes "used to it," and side effects caused by the medication begin to disappear.

Opioid tolerance typically manifests as the disappearance of nausea and other side effects. However, some patients do notice that they begin to develop a tolerance to the pain relief provided by opioids.

This does not always indicate that your body is becoming addicted to the medication. Other factors, such as muscle injury and central nervous system activity must also be taken into consideration.

Also, tolerance is not the same thing as addiction - it simply means that you may require a slight increase in the dosage of the opioid you are taking in order to gain the maximum benefits.


Addiction is a more worrying side effect of opioid usage. Some people who take opioids will develop an unhealthy dependence on them, and begin taking them for non-therapeutic reasons.

This can result in a multitude of side effects, both physical and psychological. However, less than 0.5% of chronic pain patients develop a real opioid addiction. With careful management and support, your chances of becoming addicted to opioids is actually very slim.

Talking with Your Doctor

Talking with your doctor about an opioid prescription can be a nerve-wracking experience. This is because, in the past, health care providers were strongly advised to avoid prescribing opioids at all costs.

During the 1800s, opioid use was rampant, and many doctors were unable to recognize the signs and symptoms of addiction. After 1919, the Supreme Court ruled that prescriptions of opioids had to be more tightly controlled, and, as a result, there has been a practical moratorium on opioid prescriptions ever since.

Recently though, studies recording the benefits of the safe use of opioids have encouraged many patients to begin using opioids once again. Many health care providers still remain nervous to provide these prescriptions, though.

Despite the potential for addiction, there are still numerous occasions in which someone truly needs to take medication. Opiates can greatly assist with painful complications such as Fibromyalgia.

This is a serious complication, and opiates, when they are not abused, can make it much more bearable. Dealing with constant pain can be debilitating, and it is important to let your doctor know if you need any help. 

It is important to provide your doctor with as much information as possible about your symptoms and their severity. Health care providers are not always aware of how much pain their patients really feel and are thus reluctant to prescribe narcotics.

If you are in a lot of pain, record your symptoms and rank their severity on a scale of one to ten. This will help your doctor to understand how much pain you are actually experiencing.

Also, explain to your health care provider how your symptoms are affecting your daily life. If your doctor can see how your symptoms are impacting upon your daily routine, she may be better able to provide you with the right type of prescription for your symptoms.


Table of Contents
1. Opioids Controversy
2. Addicted?
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