A chronic, relapsing brain disease that is characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences.
That is how the National Institute on Drug Abuse defines addiction.
"This is a brain disease. This isn't a moral disease it's not a legal disease. It's not any of that," said Dr. William Yarborough, an addiction specialist at OU Medical Center. "It's a brain thing and to be honest, once they are addicted their brain is screwed up."
Drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental death in the U.S., and opiates are driving the epidemic. Nearly half of the 47,000 overdose deaths in 2014 are blamed on prescription pain killers or heroin.
Oklahoma is ranked as one of the top states in the country for the sales of prescription painkillers. In 2012, this lead in part to the Sooner State being ranked as fifth in the nation for deaths by overdose.
The number of Oklahomans older than the age of 12 who have reported using painkillers for non-medical purposes is 8.1 percent. That's more than three points higher than the national average of nearly 5 percent.
MORE ON THE ISSUE: Stories on the increase use of opioids in the U.S.
There are several physical signs you can look out for to identify opiate abuse. The drug's impact on the nervous system is significant so look out for things like slurred speech, small pupils, or shallow breathing. The person might also have itchy or flushed skin and have bouts of nausea.
There are also behavioral signs to be aware of.
If the person is neglecting activities that used to be important including hanging out with loved ones, exercising, pursuing hobbies or other interests. Also be aware if the person engages in risky behavior or starts to be more secretive. Relationship and financial problems might also indicate abuse.
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