Researchers believe that a number of people may begin taking opiates to salve emotional disorders or self-treat a mental disorder. This self-medication often turns into opiate addiction which presents its own problems and often results in worse outcomes for the underlying problem.
Since opioids create a feeling of euphoria, calmness and well-being, many individuals begin taking them to self-treat mental conditions. It is most often used by people who feel unusual amounts of anger, aggression, agitation or fear, such as those with borderline personality disorder, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, or antisocial personality disorder, due to the calming effects of the medication. Individuals with depression may also take opiates for the sense of euphoria.
Individuals who have been prescribed opiates for pain management often develop an addiction when the lines blur between physical and emotional pain. Patients often begin taking their medication when they’ve had a stressful day, which can worsen physical pain, and from there slowly begin taking the drug more often for emotional and mental struggles and move toward addiction.
Effects of the Opiate
The body becomes accustomed to opiates very quickly, resulting in tolerance. This means that the individual must begin taking more to reach the same level of effect. Since opioids take the role of an artificial neurotransmitter, the brain of a habitual user starts to produce less natural dopamine, the chemical responsible for positive feelings. At this point, the individual will need to take opioids just to feel normal and will lose the euphoric feeling without a higher dosage.
Increased Mental and Emotional Risk
Sadly, there are often increased mental and emotional problems for people who try to self-medicate with opiates. These individuals are less likely to follow through on a treatment plan or keep their appointments with medical professionals. They are more likely to stop taking their other medications, resulting in more severe psychological episodes and physical health problems. Worse yet, they are also significantly more likely to attempt suicide. Since the brain produces fewer natural neurotransmitters, stopping opioid use even briefly can lead to a temporary but severe depression that may be the cause of these increased suicides.
Opiate addiction itself can also result in a number of psychological conditions that can interact poorly with existing emotional disorders. Difficulty retaining memories, paranoia, delusions, hallucinations and worsening symptoms of mental illness are all common.
It is important to seek professional help when fighting opiate addiction. Not only is there a low success rate for people who try to quit without outside help, the withdrawal symptoms can be serious, even life threatening, without medical intervention. These symptoms can include: severe depression, vomiting, diarrhea, chills, sweating, tremors, insomnia, cramps, joint pain, uncontrolled movements, anxiety, and feelings of doom. Medical treatment can help alleviate these symptoms and aid individuals as they get through the worst of the withdrawal.
Once individuals go through withdrawal, it is crucial to remember that they no longer have the same tolerance to the drug. While relapse is never a desirable option, if they do relapse, even briefly, it is absolutely crucial that they take a much lower amount than they ended with, since the risk of overdose is high with reduced tolerance.
Opiate addiction is a very difficult condition to deal with alone, especially if there are emotional or mental conditions adding to the strain. If you or someone you know is struggling with this condition, it is crucial to get both counseling and medical help to get past this crippling addiction into the recovery you deserve.