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Why are Opioids so Addictive?

“The common misconception is that only drug addicts overdose by injecting a needle with illicit drugs in their arm.  That is wrong!  Many people who overdose on opioids are following their doctor’s instructions”- Dr. Tonkin

According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, opioids act by attaching to specific proteins called opioid receptors, which are found on nerve cells in the brain, spinal cord, gastrointestinal tract, and other organs in the body.  When these drugs attach to their receptors, they reduce the perception of pain and can produce a sense of well-being. Opioid medications can produce a sense of well-being and pleasure because these drugs affect brain regions involved in reward. People who abuse opioids may seek to intensify their experience by taking the drug in ways other than those prescribed.  For example, extended-release oxycodone is designed to release slowly and steadily into the bloodstream after being taken orally in a pill; this minimizes the euphoric effects. People who abuse pills may crush them to snort or inject which not only increases the euphoria but also increases the risk for serious medical complications, such as respiratory arrest, coma, and addiction.

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