Many people fear that taking opioids will lead to
addiction. This fear often leads to not taking the medication
or not taking the right amount, which can cause
needless suffering. Addiction, which involves a powerful
craving for – or psychological need for – a drug,
rarely happens in people who are taking opioids for pain
as directed by their prescribers.
Physical dependence and tolerance are not the same as
addiction, and are completely expected when taking
opioids for more than 3-4 weeks. Physical dependence
means that withdrawal symptoms (runny nose, shivering,
goose bumps, or diarrhea), happen when the opioid
is suddenly stopped or there is a quick lowering of the
dose. Tolerance occurs when the body “gets used to”
the drug and the usual dose doesn’t work as well for the
pain. If this happens talk with your healthcare provider.