Recognizing Risk Factors for Opioid Addiction

Opioid addiction is currently one of the most serious public health crises in the United States. As the epidemic grows exponentially each year, millions of individuals and their families will likely experience its effects in some form or another. Understanding risk factors for opioid abuse can help you recognize the potential for addiction before it begins, leading to earlier intervention and better outcomes.

Using Prescription Painkillers

While heroin is one of the most well-known illegal opioids, the truth is that opioids are also found amongst several legal prescription painkillers such as OxyContin, Vicodin, morphine, fentanyl, and many others. Thus, one of the most common ways individuals become addicted to opioids is through receiving a perfectly legitimate prescription from a doctor.

Addiction to a prescription painkiller can happen to anyone and dependency may develop after just three days of use. If you are recovering from surgery or experiencing other forms of acute or chronic pain, it is crucial to be aware of whether you are using opioid painkillers and carefully monitor your usage. Moreover, opioid medications kept in the home should always be securely stored and kept away from any other household members.

Experiencing Mental Health Issues

People with a history of mental health concerns or those currently experiencing challenges such as anxiety, depression, or PTSD are at higher risk of abusing substances, including opioids. Oftentimes, mental illness and addiction carry a genetic component as well. Those with mental illness or addiction in their families may be predisposed to developing their own struggles with drugs and mental health.

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At first, opioids seemingly work to dull both physical and mental pain, making them appear to be an attractive method of coping. Unfortunately, long-term medication abuse causes far more problems than it solves. Substance use can significantly worsen mental health and cause new symptoms of mental illness to arise that may have otherwise remained dormant. Opioid users who suffer from co-occurring mental disorders also tend to experience more difficulty quitting than average users. It is essential that people dealing with mental health concerns seek therapy and avoid using substances to self-medicate.

Living in the Midwest

Finally, it should be noted that the prevalence of opioids is extremely high in the Eastern Midwest. States like Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Kentucky continue to lead the nation in terms of overdoses. These areas often have higher rates of prescribed opioid painkillers, and consequently, higher overdose death tolls. The abundance of these substances also makes them more widely available on the black market and easier to illegally procure for recreational use. If you live in a state where the epidemic is severe, take a look at this opioid epidemic infographic to be aware of the signs of addiction and overdose. Recognizing the symptoms can help you know what to do in an emergency.

There are numerous resources and services available if you or someone you know needs help recovering from opioid abuse. It is important never to delay when it comes to seeking potentially life-saving treatment. Education, compassion, and community-support are among the best ways to fight back against the crisis sweeping the country.

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