Opioid addiction affects people of all ages, from all walks of life. It affects clergy members, medical professionals, stay-at-home parents and CEOs. Crossing socioeconomic lines, people of all ages can develop an opioid addiction.
At times, the addiction can be deceiving as life (from an outside perspective) seems to continue on as normal. It is possible to be temporarily high functioning while still battling addiction, and many people keep their struggle private, so even their loved ones aren’t fully aware.
But how long can someone who is addicted to opioids remain functioning and prevent the substances from impacting their life?
Unfortunately, the answer is not long.
What is a high-functioning addiction?
There are some people who battle addiction who do not show outward signs of the struggle. This is known as high-functioning, where one’s personal battles do not interfere with their professional life.
Or so it may seem.
When it comes to high-functioning addiction and/or dependence on substances, individuals abusing substances may initially seem unaffected by the substances they are abusing. They may continue to get notable grades in school, excel at their job or otherwise continue living their life normally.
As time goes on, however, so does the progression of the addiction, and eventually, the chemical imbalances that occur as a consequence of addiction do overpower one’s desire to continue living life normally.
Truths about opiate abuse
While it may appear to some that one can function normally while misusing opioids, there are some important things to keep in mind in regard to understanding just how serious an opioid dependence or addiction can be.
1. Addiction is always progressive
By its very nature, addiction is a progressive disease, much like diabetes or heart disease. Without treatment, it always gets worse. This is due to the brain changes that characterize addiction.
A healthy brain rewards healthy behaviors with a rush of dopamine, the neurotransmitter that produces feelings of pleasure. When you eat, exercise or bond with someone you love, the brain releases a certain amount of dopamine so that you’ll continue to seek out these life-giving activities again and again.
When you use drugs, the brain’s natural reward system is hijacked, according to Harvard Medical School. Large amounts of dopamine are released, making you want to use drugs repeatedly. After a while, normal, everyday pleasures are no longer as rewarding as they once were, and your primary focus in life turns to getting pleasure in life from drugs rather than seeking out natural, healthy pleasures.
Chronic opioid use affects areas of the brain responsible for learning, memory and motivation. It affects the decision-making center of the brain and makes it very difficult to make choices that are healthy and promote optimal functioning. Over time, using becomes central to life, while relationships and hobbies begin to take a back seat. You begin to neglect duties at work, school or home, and you start to neglect your health and well-being.
It could take months or even years, but eventually, addiction will inevitably progress to the point of dysfunction and disability.
2. Prolonged opioid use causes more problems than they fix
One may turn to opioids (or continue to use them for prolonged periods of time) for many reasons, including:
- Reducing the symptoms of anxiety, depression or any other mental health disorder
- Seeking the euphoria of an opioid’s short-term effects
- Self-medicating in order to deal with the stresses of life
- Preventing withdrawal
No matter the reason for the use of opioids, it is an undeniable fact that their use/misuse causes greater problems in the long run. Even someone with a supposed high-functioning addiction can’t escape the devastating effects of long-term opioid abuse on physical and mental health.
3. Even those with a high-functioning addiction can recover
Especially for those who have been misusing opiates for a long period of time, and for those who remain high-functioning regardless of drug dependence, recovery is possible.
Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for opioid addiction can prevent withdrawal and block cravings while helping to normalize brain function so that you can focus on addressing the issues behind addiction and work on improving or restoring your life.
Additionally, personalized treatment programs, including outpatient programs, individualize recovery treatment options to promote better recovery, in addition to giving you the option to seek treatment without taking a huge step back from your job, school or family. This way, you can successfully seek treatment and maintain obligations in your life.
Looking for an opioid treatment program?
If you think that misuse of opioids is having a negative effect on your life, it may be time to seek recovery. Addiction treatment programs can help you find a treatment program that positively impacts your life and shows you the value of life without the use of substances.
To get in touch with an addiction treatment counselor today, reach out to Silvermist Recovery to learn more.