• Repeated use of a substance despite negative social, physical, and mental problems
  • Experience severe physical withdrawal symptoms (i.e. getting sick) when stopping the substance
  • Not related to willpower or choice

Addiction is defined as a behavioral syndrome characterized by the repeated, compulsive seeking (psychological dependence) or use of a substance despite adverse social, psychological, and/or physical consequences, along with the physical need for an increased amount of a substance as time goes on to achieve the same desired effect.

Substance addiction is accompanied by tolerance, physical dependence, and withdrawal syndrome. Extended opioid and alcohol use causes the brain’s receptors to become less sensitive to the chemical and require more of it to achieve the same effect. This is called tolerance. A physical dependence is created when the body can not produce the amount of natural opioids necessary to satisfy the less sensitive receptors, and the user must continue to rely on external sources. The absence of the external supply of opioids creates the symptoms of withdrawal. Physical dependence is the result of actual changes in the brain, and as such is not related to willpower or choice.


  • Defined as the symptoms experienced when stopping or decreasing a normal dosage of an addictive substance
  • Sign of physical dependence on a substance

Withdrawal consists of predictable signs and symptoms that result from the sudden removal of or decrease in the regular dosage of a psychoactive substance (i.e. alcohol or opioids). Withdrawal is a symptom of physical dependence. A person who is not physically dependent on a substance will not experience withdrawal if usage stops. Characterized by overactivity of the reactions that were suppressed by the drug as well as suppressing functions previously stimulated by the drug, meaning that individuals suffering from withdrawal will experience the opposite effects of the effects experienced with the drug.

Withdrawal symptoms are experienced both physically and emotionally. The most common symptoms include: dilated pupils, goose bumps, watery eyes, runny nose, yawning, loss of appetite, tremors, panic, chills, nausea, vomiting, muscle cramps, insomnia, stomach cramps, diarrhea, shaking, chills or profuse sweating, depression, irritability, jitters, and increased sensitivity to pain.


  • Produced organically in the body
  • Signal the brain to slow breathing and block pain
  • Work as anti-depressant
  • Produced at low levels in the body
  • Manufactured opioids (drugs) mimic natural opioid reactions, but overload and overstimulate the brain causing the user to become addicted

Examples of Opioids Includes but are not limited to: ​A variety of opioid prescription painkillers, such as morphine, methadone, hydrocodone, and oxycodone and illegal drugs, such as heroin. 

Opioid-related death rates have risen from 4.5 per 100,000 population in 2008, to 11.7 per 100,000 in 2016. Drug deaths related to heroin have increased sharply beginning in 2011, and for synthetic opioids beginning in 2015.

Opioids normally are produced naturally in the body. They attach to receptors in the brain, signaling to the brain to slow breathing, block pain, and has a general calming and anti-depressing effect, called “the opioid effect”. The body cannot naturally produce enough opioids to stop severe or chronic pain and it cannot produce enough to cause an overdose.

Manufactured opioids can activate receptors because their chemical structure imitates the naturally-occurring compound. This similarity in structure “fools” receptors and allows the drugs to lock on and cause the reaction. Though these manufactured opioids can attach to the receptors because of structural similarities, they do not activate nerve cells in the same way and they lead to the transmittance of abnormal messages through the nervous system.

Opioids target the brain’s reward system, flooding the circuit with dopamine. Dopamine is a chemical present in regions of the brain that regulate movement, emotion, cognition, motivation, and feelings of pleasure. Opioids introduced from external sources overstimulate this system, producing the euphoria and the need to repeat the behavior.

The following drugs are not opioids: Cocaine, methamphetamines, ecstasy, LSD, GHB, Ketamine, other club drugs, steroids.


Journey Road Treatment Center

East Side Clinic

1201 N Post Rd., Suite 4
Indianapolis, IN 46219

Phone: 317-405-8833

Fax: 317-672-2398



Journey Road Treatment Center

West Side Clinic

5610 W Crawfordsville Rd., Suite 1500
Indianapolis, IN 46224

Phone: 317-562-0500

Fax: 317-562-0589

Journey Road Treatment Center

South Side Clinic

8106 S Madison Ave.
Indianapolis, IN 46227

Phone: 317-884-1752

Fax: 317-884-1753

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