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About Opioid Dependence
Why opioid dependence is a medical condition:
Frequent and persistent use of opioids can cause brain cells to change the way they work. The brain can be "reset" to think the drug is necessary for survival. In other words, the brain of a person dependent on opioids can cause them to feel as though they cannot live without this drug—and eventually may cause them to adopt compulsive drug-seeking behavior.
Researchers have discovered that opioids cause long-term changes in the brain. In this sense, opioid dependence is a long-term disease similar to high blood pressure or diabetes. The good news is that opioid dependence can be treated effectively with drug therapy combined with counseling.
How opioids affect behavior:
The need to satisfy cravings or avoid withdrawal can be so intense that even people who want to stop taking opioids find this difficult. Consequently, they may find themselves doing things they wouldn't ordinarily do in order to obtain more of the drug they crave. For this reason, even though opioid dependence is a medical condition and not a moral failing, it can drive behavior.