Opioid dependence is a chronic medical condition. Opioid use can reset the brain’s chemistry to think the drug is necessary for survival. When your brain tells you that you can’t live without a drug, it can quickly lead to compulsive drug-seeking behavior.
The World Health Organization (WHO) and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) have defined dependence on opioids—addiction to prescription painkillers and heroin—as a long-term brain disease.
Opioid Dependence is a Medical Condition
Because opioid dependence is a medical condition, it can be treated effectively with medication-assisted treatment combined with counseling and support. Don’t let shame or stigma get in the way of getting the help you need. People with other chronic medical conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and asthma also benefit from medical treatment combined with behavioral changes.
The goal of treatment is to help opioid-dependent people stop misusing opioids and regain control over their lives. Medication is only one part of the treatment picture. Talk with your doctor about how counseling can increase the likelihood of treatment success—and about the importance of having strong support to help you along.