How Long Does It Take to Become an Opiate Addict? [frn_toc]Opiates are narcotic pain relievers that contain either natural or synthetic opium. They are among the strongest medications prescribed by doctors today. While opiates are, indeed, effective painkillers, they are also, unfortunately, highly addictive drugs.

The ability of opiates to relieve pain, their highly addictive nature and the euphoric high that can accompany their use can quickly and easily lead even innocent, unsuspecting individuals down the road of physical and psychological dependency.1

What Does Tolerance and Dependence Have to Do with Addiction?

Black woman on balconyDrugs as potent as opiates can lead to addiction very quickly. If you misuse opiates or even take an opiate prescription for an extended period of time, your body will adjust to the drug and its effects. That’s called building “tolerance” to the drug. When this happens, more of the drug is required to accomplish the desired effect – a high, a buzz, or simply relief from pain.

Once tolerance begins, dependence is not far behind.

A person becomes dependent on opiates when he feels unable to function normally without the drug. The length of time it takes to become dependent can vary from person to person. Dependence often depends on a number of factors, including previous opioid use, your overall health, your age, your body size, the strength of the drug, and more. Some people start opiate abuse in very high doses, which causes them to gain tolerance and become dependent quickly. Others may take the slower road toward dependence, like following a legitimate prescription.2

“My addiction started out like many addictions do,” writes Amy. “I started with doctor prescribed painkillers (hydrocodone, Percocet, and eventually OxyContin). I was completely ignorant to the addictive factor of those medications. I soon became aware when my habit began to cost me on an average of $150-$200 daily and I would become very sick without it!…”

When Is an Opiate User an Addict?

The beginning of an addiction is not always clear-cut, so opiates and other powerful drugs must be cautiously approached and carefully used. Warning signs of dependency and addiction must be watched.

A person is addicted to opiates when she has reached the point where even her strong personal desire to stop or reduce use of opiates is not enough. She can no longer control her need for greater amounts or more frequent dosages of opiates. The compulsion to obtain and use opiates becomes the top priority in her life. Other things that were once important – like work, relationships, or personal goals – fade into the background. Opiate addiction becomes inevitable the longer its use or abuse continues.1

“I have been off of Suboxone now since April 16 of this year. I feel GREAT!! I can’t believe I let a drug control my life for so long! While on it, I became very anxious, irritable, and antisocial. I rarely laughed, I was just on autopilot. What a sad existence! I am back to the old me! I am happy and I enjoy the little things in life again. Thank God for another chance!

“So, yes, I did feel pretty bad for 22 days, but in the grand scheme of life that is really nothing compared to the rest of my life free of addiction! It is worth it! I am so happy I decided to give it a shot. I battled and I won!”

— Read Amy’s story and more at


How Can Opiate Abuse and Addiction Be Stopped?

If you or someone you love struggles with opiate dependence or addiction, let us help. By calling our 24/7 toll-free line, 760-548-4032, you can speak with a trained addiction professional who can lend a compassionate ear, answer your questions and help you get the treatment you need.

Whether your opiate experimentation has just begun or your opiate addiction is now out of control, getting proven, professional help is critical. Treatment can save your life and ensure that you have a chance at a fulfilling future. Call us. We care!


1 Volkow, Nora D., M.D., Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). America’s Addiction to Opioids: Heroin and Prescription Drug Abuse. NIDA. 14 May 2014.

2 Kosten, Thomas R., M.D., The Neurobiology of Opioid Dependence: Implications for Treatment. National Center for Biotechnology Information. 1 Jul 2002.

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