How People Become Addicted The way the opioids work contributes to addiction. The longer someone uses opioids, the greater the chance they will become addicted. Up to 20 percent of people who use prescription opioids longer than three months could become addicted. Over 80 percent of people who are addicted to and use illegal street heroin started out using prescription opioids. Opioids work by attaching to opioid receptors. These are specialized proteins on neurons located in the brain and other parts of the nervous system. Once they are in our bodies, opioids mimic our body’s own natural pain-relieving neurochemicals, which is how they relieve pain. They also cause the brain to release chemicals like dopamine and serotonin, which cause a burst of euphoria —feelings of happiness and well-being. This burst of pleasurable feelings is what users call a “high.”

Scan here for a short video showing how opioids change the brain:


Treatments for Opioid Addiction

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