(5) Addiction and habituation. These two terms have frequently been
confused. Addiction has been defined as a state of periodic or chronic intoxication
produced by repeated consumption of a drug and involves tolerance, psychological
dependence, usually physical dependence, and an overwhelming compulsion to
continue using the drug. Addiction is detrimental to both the individual and society.
Habituation has been defined as a condition which results from repeatedly using the
drug. There is no evidence of tolerance, a little psychological dependence, no physical
dependence, and a desire (but not a compulsion) to continue taking the drug because it
makes the person feel good. The individual's health may get worse. The drug addict is
unable to stop without getting professional help and also without experiencing
withdrawal signs and symptoms. On the other hand, the person with a drug habit
should be able to stop using the drug if he can just find another way of feeling good.
a. Definition/Examples. The term opioid describes any natural or synthetic
drug that has morphine-like actions. Such drugs are also referred to as narcotic
analgesics (narcotic pain-killers). The principal medical use of such drugs is for the
relief of pain. Opioids can be grouped in three classifications: natural substances
(opium, morphine, and codeine); semisynthetic drugs (drugs produced through minor
chemical alterations of the basic poppy product (heroin is an example)); and synthetic
analgesics (meperidine and propoxyphene). Opium, morphine, heroin, methadone, and
meperidine (Demerol) are all examples of opioids.
b. Opioid (Narcotic) Abuse. The appeal of morphine-like drugs lies in their
ability to reduce the person's sensitivity to psychological and physical stimuli and to give
the person a sense of well-being. These drugs dull fear, tension, or anxiety. Under the
influence of morphine-like opioids, the user is usually lethargic and indifferent to his
environment and personal situation. For example, a pregnant addict will usually
continue drug abuse despite the fact that her baby will be born addicted and probably
die shortly after birth unless medical treatment is undertaken at once. Her indifference
to her personal situation--the pregnancy--is so great that she does not care enough to
stop taking drugs even though the drugs are hazardous to her health and the health of
her unborn child.
c. Results of Chronic Opioid (Narcotic) Use. The price tag on the abuse of
opioids is high. Chronic use may lead to both physical and psychological dependence.
Psychological dependence is the more serious of the two because the user can still be
psychologically dependent on the drug even after he stops using the drug. The person
who uses the drug chronically develops tolerance and finds he needs ever-increasing
doses to get the desired feelings. As the need for the drug increases, the user's
activities become more drug-centered. When drug supplies are cut off, the user suffers