Opioid addiction is widely recognized today as a chronic disease that affects an estimated 15 million people worldwide.
Opioid addiction is characterized as a powerful and compulsive urge to continue using opioid drugs despite negative ramifications.
All opioids can cause addiction if misused or after prolonged use. Prominent prescription opioids include codeine, morphine, Percocet, Vicodin, OxyContin, Hydrocodone, and Demerol, while infamous street drugs include heroin and fentanyl.
Despite different drug names, they all have similar euphoric effects and the ability to reduce emotional responses. Likewise, once someone is dependent on opioids, the dependence can begin to destroy a user’s personal and professional lives.
In this article, we’ll discuss the reasons why opioid addiction is a problem and how it became a national crisis.
4 Reasons Why Opioid Addiction is an Epidemic Today
Reason 1: Overprescribing
To begin, let’s discuss how opioid addiction became, and still is, a national problem.
Opioids are well suited to control pain. In the 1990s, pharmaceutical companies controlled the narrative of opioid use and assured the medical community that prescription opioids were not addictive and could be used broadly to help patients with their pain.
In response, healthcare providers prescribed opioids in massive numbers with little appreciation for the consequences.
It wasn’t until after enormous volumes of opioids were prescribed, and signs of dependency arose, that it was widely communicated that opioids are addictive.
Overprescription is still an issue. Today, according to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, 21-29% of patients prescribed opioids for chronic pain misuse the drug, and 8-12% of them develop an opioid use disorder.
As a result, the standards for prescribing opioids have become more stringent to reduce nationwide opioid addiction.
Reason 2: Euphoric Side Effects
Opioids trigger the release endorphins, the brain’s feel-good hormone that causes a feeling of euphoria and acts to reduce the perception of pain. Nonetheless, when taken for too long, a person can become dependent.
Opioid use—prescription and street drugs—over a sustained period of time will cause an increase in opioid receptors in the brain. When this happens, the individual develops a tolerance and must ingest a higher dose of opioids to get the same effect. As the individual increases their dose, the brain produces even more receptors, resulting in a cycle of growing tolerance and demand for opioids.
This cycle is never-ending and can lead to individuals consuming dangerously high doses of opioids to avoid withdrawal and satisfy strong cravings.
Reason 3: Genetic Disposition
In addition to invoking feelings of pleasure and pain relief, there are some indications that genetics play a role in opioid addiction. In fact, people who have family members with an addiction are often at higher risk for addiction themselves.
According to the US National Library of Medicine, many of the genes that may play a role in opioid addiction are found in the endogenous system. This system is where your body regulates pain, reward, and addictive behaviors, and where our opioid receptors are found.
Studies show that differences in these receptors’ structures may indicate how a person responds to opioids and may even be associated with a person’s risk for opioid addiction.
Genetic dispositions can make an individual susceptible to opioid addiction and make it harder to overcome addiction. However, an individual must explore this further with a doctor to determine if they are at risk.
Reason 4: Other Predispositions
The last item on our list of reasons why opioid addiction is a problem and how it got to where it is today is a combination of factors that predispose individuals to opioid addiction.
According to the Mayo Clinic, the following factors increase a person’s likelihood of becoming addicted to opioids:
- Personal history of substance abuse
- History of severe depression and/or anxiety
- Psychiatric disorders
- Childhood abuse/neglect
- Certain personality traits, such as impulsive behavior and sensation-seeking practices
- Associating with others who abuse opioids or other drugs
- Having easy access to prescription opioids
Keep in mind that opioid addiction does not discriminate. People of all backgrounds are susceptible to opioid addiction.
Nonetheless, these complex factors are common traits of people who suffer from opioid addiction.
Find Treatment for Opioid Addiction
Are you addicted to opioids?
Medication-assisted treatment paired with counseling can help individuals recover from their addiction and overcome the emotional barriers that may prevent them from recovering.
MATClinics is a Maryland-based outpatient Suboxone Clinic that offers a truly personalized experience for each patient. They will address your individual needs before they prescribe treatment, guaranteeing you get the help you need.
To learn more about how MATClinics can help you, visit one of our locations or contact us today.