If you've never experienced addiction, it can be hard to understand. Everyone's experience with addiction is unique. This article is intended to encourage an understanding of people with addiction, not to represent or stigmatize any individual or groups.

Opium (or poppy tears) is dried latex obtained from the seed capsules of the opium poppy Papaver somniferum. Approximately 12 percent of opium is made up of the analgesic alkaloid morphine, which is processed chemically to produce heroin and other synthetic opioids for medicinal use and for the illegal drug trade. The latex also contains the closely related opiates codeine and thebaine, and non-analgesic alkaloids such as papaverine and noscapine. The traditional, labor-intensive method of obtaining the latex is to scratch ("score") the immature seed pods (fruits) by hand; the latex leaks out and dries to a sticky yellowish residue that is later scraped off and dehydrated. The word "meconium" (derived from the Greek for "opium-like", but now used to refer to newborn stools) historically referred to related, weaker preparations made from other parts of the opium poppy or different species of poppies.

Addiction can occur in many forms. Often, it is assumed that physical dependence characterized by withdrawal symptoms is required in order for someone to be diagnosed with an addiction disorder, but the fact is that behavioral addiction can occur with all the negative consequences in a person’s life minus the physical issues faced by people who compulsively engage in drug and alcohol abuse.

Drug addiction is a very misunderstood disease. Addiction is a chronic disease of the brain that cannot be overcome overnight, with a simple “no” or change of mind. If you are asking “why do people get addicted to drugs” or “why did my child get addicted to drugs,” it’s important to recognize this first.

Often as concerned loved ones, we find ourselves asking things like, “Why do some people get addicted to drugs, and others do not?” It’s a valid question, and many people who use drugs don’t think they will become addicted. The truth is, anyone can become addicted to drugs, and there a variety of factors that put them at greater risk.

People often don’t realize or understand the risks of combining substances.  Mixing drugs can have long-term or fatal consequences. Using more than one drug at a time is known as polydrug use. This intensifies the effects of any individual drug and makes them more dangerous. It also can create new, more euphoric highs. For example, alcohol can intensify the effects of painkillers, but taking these drugs together makes it more likely that the user will stop breathing.

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