In spite of the obvious changes that opiate abuse brings about in a person’s life, the belief that he or she has everything under control is one of the hallmarks of addiction. Even though someone who abuses opiates has experienced the slowing effects of the drug on multiple occasions, the idea that these same effects can can actually shut down the body’s major systems rarely, if ever crosses his or her mind.
No one ever thinks opiate overdose will happen to them until it does.
According to the U. S. Department of Health & Human Services, opiate overdose has become a national epidemic, with an estimated 28,000 fatalities in 2014 alone. Whether a person abuses heroin or prescription drugs like fentanyl or oxycodone, the risk for opiate overdose remains. Without needed opiate addiction treatment help, the risk of overdose only increases with time.
The Makings of an Opiate Overdose
Opiates have a cumulative effect on the brain’s functional capacity, weakening and changing critical chemical processes over time. These changes evolve in stages. Unless a person seeks out needed opiate addiction treatment, these stages will progress to a point where the brain can no longer maintain the body’s major systems.
Rising Tolerance Levels
Opiates easily integrate within the brain’s chemical system, so the brain readily adapts to opiate effects by reducing its own neurotransmitter chemical output. Opiates also place chemical-producing brain cells under excess strain and damages cell structures in the process.
These interactions result in rising tolerance levels as the brain comes to require increasing amounts of the drug to produce the desired “high” effect. Tolerance levels will continue to rise for as long as opiate abuse continues.
With ongoing opiate abuse, it’s only a matter of time before the brain can no longer regulate the body’s systems in the absence of opiate effects. This state of physical dependence gives rise to withdrawal effects, which only work to further aggravate drug-using behaviors.
At this point, rising tolerance levels and physical dependence create an ever-increasing risk of overdose. Opiate addiction treatment stops this cycle in its tracks and helps a person break opiate’s hold on his or her life.
According to the Journal of Addiction Science & Clinical Practice, the physical damage of opiate abuse creates prime conditions for a psychological dependence, or addiction to develop. At this point, a person uses the opiate “high” as a means for coping with daily life pressures.
The combined effects of rising tolerance levels, physical dependence and addiction creates the perfect storm for an opiate overdose event. In effect, the mental hold opiates exert over a person’s thinking and behavior becomes the last nail in the opiate overdose coffin.
The Need for Opiate Addiction Treatment
The need for opiate addiction treatment becomes even more so apparent the longer a person keeps using the drug. That being so, nothing short of a major life-changing event can help a person see the destruction drug abuse has caused in his or her life. For some people, opiate overdose becomes that life-changing event.
If you or someone you know is struggling with an addiction problem, call our toll-free helpline at 800-429-5210 (Who Answers?) to inquire about available opiate addiction treatment options.