Patient Blogs | Substance Abuse
My Message to Anyone Still Caught in the Grips of Opioid Addiction
photo of woman pours pills into hand

Some think getting off opioids is a simple thing. You’re taking a drug that hurts you? Then stop. Don’t take it anymore. 

I get it. I heard that from doctors even, when they told me I was taking too much and needed to scale back. It frustrated me to no end, because didn’t they know that I couldn’t?

Didn’t these doctors know how opioids work? Were they even aware of the unrelenting grip opioids have on people who take them? On their brains

I saw a report on NBC News on people’s brains as they try to quit opioids. Researchers in that study explain the effect opioids have on user's brains like this:

“Opioids can hijack the brain's reward system by triggering a surge of dopamine larger than nature ever could. Repeated opioid use overloads circuits in multiple brain regions, including those involved with learning and memory, emotion, judgment, and self-control. At the same time, the brain gradually releases less dopamine in response to other things the person once found pleasurable. Eventually, they seek more of the drug not to get high, but to avoid constantly feeling low.”

So while I wished I could just scale back, easy as that, I couldn’t. My brain was too powerful a force. Why else would there be such a problem with opioids in the world today?

Yes, I wished I didn’t have to depend on a stupid little pill to function, one that those doctors had given me in the first place, but the fact of the matter was, I did. Just like anyone else with opioid addiction. 

Why is letting go of addiction so hard? 

When I was addicted to opioids, I knew I needed to change. I knew I couldn’t go on the way I was forever, even if it was because my body constantly required more and more of the drug, and my doctors wouldn’t continue to up my prescriptions. 

I rationalized that it was fine because the drugs were legal. They were a prescription, for crying out loud. It’s not like I was injecting heroin or snorting coke off the street. 

Yet I knew that if I were to carry on letting my opioid addiction control me, injecting heroin and snorting coke would be where I was headed. Because once one of my doctors realized I was getting multiple prescriptions, I would be cut off. Then what? 

I knew at that point, my only option would be to turn to illegal drugs. That would be the only way I could continue to function and the only way to prevent myself from feeling low all the time. Just like the study I saw on NBC News said. 

I didn’t want that to be an option for me. But if I hadn’t reached out to my family for help, desperate for change, who knows what would have happened? I could have been just another statistic. 

Look, I get it. When you’re addicted to opioids, you’re stuck. You desperately want change, you want things to be different and get better, but you’re scared. You don’t know how to get the help you need. 

It’s more than just feeling low, it’s feeling out of control and hopeless. 

Here’s the truth: even if they’re not close to you personally, there are people out there who want to help. 

Not everyone has a family member willing to help them get free of their addiction. I get that. I was lucky; my dad cared enough that he took a great deal of time out of his busy schedule to help me buckle down and get clean. 

Your doctors might not care (mine didn’t), but there are plenty of people who do. Reach out to them. Don’t suffer in silence. 

Don’t let opioids continue to dictate the direction your life will go, because eventually, you won’t be able to continue at the same dose you’re at now. 

And then you won’t just be stuck with an opioid addiction you never wanted; you’ll be taking your life down a dangerous path it may never recover from. And you don’t deserve that. No one does. 

Reach out. Let others help you take control of your life again. Now, before it’s too late. 



Photo Credit: SDI Productions / E+ via Getty Images

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Ashley Walker

Ashley Walker

Diagnosed since 2010

Ashley Walker is a former opioid addict. Her addiction came about as a result of an unmonitored prescription following an intensive spinal surgery. Walker has been clean since 2013. She now advocates for those living in silence by raising awareness, offering support, and sharing her story here, and through her blog, She spends her spare time teaching English in Japan through her website, A married mother to two, she lives near Denver, CO.

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