How long does it take to become addicted to pain pills? That is like asking how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. The truth is, a raging, all-encompassing, life-threatening addiction can begin with just one pill. Now, this is not the norm. Most people who take opioids do not become addicted to them. This covers about 90 percent of the population. For the other 10 percent, addiction is possible and even likely if the person is exposed to a particular drug or drug class.
Drug Addiction and Genetics
Scientists now believe that genes play a strong role in the tendency towards addiction. Genes may determine as much as half of a person’s addiction risk. This means that people with certain genes may have the addiction deck stacked against them from the start. This does not mean, however, that a certain gene or gene directly causes addiction. Both addiction and genes are far too complex for such a simple concept. However, it’s clear that genes definitely can predispose an individual to addiction under certain circumstances.
There is no way to know at the current time if a person has this predisposition or not. This is why addictive drugs should be avoided unless absolutely necessary. For teenagers, it’s even more serious. Statistics show that teens are much more likely to develop an addiction than an adult. In fact, many dentists no longer prescribe opioids to teens after wisdom teeth extraction. They use alternatives because they don’t want to take that chance.
Is there a clear pattern of drug and alcohol addiction in your family? If so, you may indeed carry genes that predispose you to addiction as well. Maybe you do, and maybe you don’t but better safe than sorry.
How Addiction Starts
People are natural hedonists. This means that people naturally seek pleasurable experiences and want to repeat them. If this activity is running or eating within reason, there is no harm. Exercise and healthy food are good for you. Drugs start the addiction ball rolling by hijacking the brain. In the case of opioids, this means that the brain releases much more dopamine than it normally would. Dopamine is a pleasure and reward chemical. It feels good. People want to feel that good feeling again and again. They take the opioid again and again.
As time goes on, the drug rewires the brain. If the drug is suddenly stopped or the dose sharply reduced, the brain reacts violently because it can no longer function normally without the presence of the drug. That is what withdrawal is. Until the brain balances itself again, the person will feel sick. Opioids don’t normally cause life-threatening withdrawal symptoms, but some drugs like alcohol and benzodiazepines can.
Drug withdrawal is best handled by an addiction professional. You will be much more comfortable, safe and more likely to attain and maintain sobriety.
Physical Dependence on Opioids
This is not the same as addiction. Anyone taking opioids daily for more than a few weeks will become physically dependent on them and will experience withdrawal should the drug be suddenly stopped. This is why doctors recommend a tapering schedule when it’s time to stop the opioids or if the patient just wants to. Someone without an emotional attachment to their opioid is not addicted. They are physically dependent but not addicted.
True addiction may take many months or even years to occur. The person may take the drug without issue for a long time until one day they don’t. Perhaps there was a triggering event. For others, addiction began the moment they swallowed that first pill. Everyone is different.
We can Help
Let us answer your questions about pain pills and guide you to the right kind of help for you. Just call us anytime at 833-820-2922 for professional assistance and most of all, hope. We’re here to make sure everyone who calls us gets the very best information and referrals to assistance in their area.