Home / Opioids, addiction, and substance misuse

Everyone who uses an opioid medication should be mindful of the potential risk for addiction.
Things that increase a person’s risk for Substance Use Disorder are:

  • Having family members who have problems with substance misuse (alcohol or drugs).
  • Past problems with substance misuse.
  • Traumatic early childhood experiences like abuse or abandonment.

Talk to your doctor about your risk for Substance Use Disorder and ways to lower your risk.

There’s a difference between substance misuse and substance abuse.

  • Substance misuse is when someone adjusts their dose on their own in order to get the drug to work better (such as to reduce pain).
  • Substance abuse is when someone adjusts the dose in order to get high, or when someone gives or sells the drug to someone else.

Early signs of either misuse or abuse can include:

  • Someone increases the dose or frequency of the drug without the approval of their doctor.
  • Someone reports lost or stolen drugs.
  • ‘Drug-seeking’ behavior (such as going to different doctors seeking the drug).
  • Early refill requests for no clear reason.
Important things to know:
  • Physical dependence means your body has gotten used to the drug and you will experience withdrawal symptoms if you stop taking it.
  • Addiction is the loss of control over the desire to use the drug, regardless of the risks involved. It’s more psychological than physical.
  • Tolerance is when a person gets less response to a drug after using it for a while, because the body adapts to it.
  • Physical dependence can occur without addiction. Wanting to avoid withdrawal is not addiction.