Opiate Addiction is a Disease

Brain experiencing opiate addiction

A person has an opiate addiction when they develop a dependence on their opiate medication. They no longer take the medication for it’s initial reason, such as severe pain. They continue to take the medication to avoid going through opiate withdrawal symptoms or use the drug to feel a sense of well being that comes in a rush after the drug is taken. After this initial feeling of euphoria, the user goes through alternate periods of feeling alert and then drowsy. Some people feel these up and down periods are cyclic, similar to what Doctors see in patients who are diagnosed with Manic Depressive Disease, or Bipolar Disease. The person is actually self treating their ups and downs with opiates. When patients are treated appropriately they no longer have to self treat themselves with opiates. They can receive the appropriate medications so they can eventually get off opiate medications and have a better chance of not relapsing.   For so many years addicts have felt that they have some sort of character defect that has allowed them to get to this point. What is worse, society has reinforced, or caused these feelings. Friends and family can treat addicts poorly because they are told their addiction is a choice. More recently the medical community has come to understand that addiction is not a choice. It is an illness just like Diabetes or High Blood Pressure.