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Article Summary

What Are The Risk Factors Of Opioid Addiction?

When you hear the term opioids, your mind might automatically be redirected to street drugs like fentanyl and heroin. However, the problematic use of this class of drugs also includes such prescription opioids as codeine, morphine, and oxycodone.

Understanding Opioids

Opioids are powerful substances that are typically effective in the relief of severe pain. However, when you take them in a high dose or in any way other than your doctor recommended, you may also derive effects of intense euphoria and pain. These drugs, in extremely high doses, could also lead to the development of an overdose that could potentially turn out to be fatal.

As medications, opioids can be quite effective as long as you use them exactly as your doctor prescribed. However, the other additional effects - apart from pain relief - that they cause might also cause you to develop an opioid use disorder, or an addiction.

Both prescription opioids and street drugs like heroin come with a high risk of substance abuse. When you engage in this form of drug abuse, your risk of contracting other health-related disorders might increase. Examples of these disorders include co-occurring mental health disorders like depression and anxiety, as well as communicable diseases such as hepatitis B and C and HIV.

Risk Factors for Opioid Addiction

But what are the risk factors for opioid use disorders? Essentially, it is important to remember that these drugs to have a high risk of addiction particularly if you use them in any other way than your doctor recommended. For instance, you might crush the pills so that you can snort the resulting powder or dissolve it for intravenous use. This action is typically dangerous if you do so to an extended or long acting formulation.

When you deliver the medicine rapidly into your body, it could increase your risk of suffering accidental overdose. In the same way, taking these drugs in high doses or more often than you used to could increase your risk of developing a substance use disorder.

In the same way, the duration of your opioid abuse will also play a major role in the development of addiction. According to recent research studies, using some opioids prescription medications for more than a couple of days could increase your risk of addiction.

That said, the causes of opioid use disorders vary from one person to another. Today, doctors believe that the risk factors for these disorders are multifaceted and most of them work interchangeably to cause addiction. Broadly classified, the most common among them, however, include:

1. Biological Factors

Researchers have suggested that there are some people who are born without certain endorphins. While trying to self-medicate this deficit, they might end up turning to opioids - including both prescription and illicit opioids. In the process, they will find themselves struggling with a substance use disorder.

2. Environmental Factors

If you grew up in a home environment that was not welcoming or conducive to your health and wellness - or one that was chaotic - there is a high risk that you might turn to drugs in the future, including substances like opioids.

This is also true if you were brought up in a home where substance abuse and addiction were more of a norm than an exception - such as if your parents or older siblings were abusing drugs.

During your teens and early adulthood, you might also pick up the habits that you observed at home, and end up struggling with a substance use disorder as a direct result of what happened during your formative years.

In the same way, if the people who are in your immediate environment have normalized substance abuse - and they influence you to try these drugs - there is also a high risk that you might become addicted to substances like opioids.

3. Genetic Factors

Many medical and research studies have shown that if you have first-degree relatives struggling with a substance use disorder - irrespective of the types of drugs that they abuse - there is a high risk that you might end up dealing with the same addiction.

Although these genetic factors are not precise indicators, you should always be careful about trying drugs like opioids. This is even though there are people who have addicts in their families but they never end up struggling with similar conditions.

4. Psychological Factors

Many substance use disorders occur when people try to self-medicate some or all of the symptoms of mental health disorders. If you have such a disorder, you might turn to opioids as your last resort. In the process, you could become addicted to these drugs.

Apart from these broad categories of the risk factors of opioid addiction, there are many other known risk factors that could cause you to start abusing opioids and end up struggling with a substance use disorder. Examples of these additional factors include:

  • Being in regular contact with people and environments that could cause you to abuse opioids and other drugs
  • Compulsive use of this class of drugs
  • Developing physical and psychological tolerance to opioids, particular prescription ones
  • Engaging in thrill-seeking or risk-taking behavior
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when you stop taking the drugs
  • Family history of drug abuse
  • Finding that you need to take opioids in increasing quantities
  • Having a diagnosed or undiagnosed mental health disorder, such as anxiety and depression
  • Having experienced alcohol or drug rehabilitation in the past
  • Having problems with family members, past employers, and friends
  • Heavy tobacco use
  • History of criminal activity
  • History of sexual abuse
  • History of such legal problems as DUIs
  • Ongoing access to opioids
  • Personal history of drug use
  • Poverty
  • Starting to abuse these drugs at a young age
  • Stressful circumstances
  • Unemployment

Apart from these risk factors, it is important to keep in mind that women tend to have unique risk factors than men. In particular, women have a higher risk of suffering chronic pain - in comparison to men. As a result, they might be more likely to receive a prescription for opioid pain relief medications. Doctors also tend to give women these drugs in higher doses or ask them to use them for longer time periods.

Further, some women have a higher tendency - biologically speaking - to develop tolerance and dependence to their pain relief medications in comparison to men. As a result, they may end up struggling with opioid use disorders at higher rates than men.

Signs and Symptoms of Opioid Addiction

Apart from the above risk factors for opioid addiction, it is also important to understand the signs and symptoms of opioid use disorders. By learning how to identify these symptoms, you might be able to tell when you have started developing a problem, and take measures designed to address the condition before it gets out of hand.

The following are some of the symptoms that you need to look out for (particularly if you have a prescription for these drugs):

  • Continuing to use the substances in spite of the negative consequences that such use causes
  • Drawing on various sources for the drugs, such as getting prescriptions from multiple doctors (known as doctor shopping)
  • Experiencing cravings whenever you go for a couple of hours without opioids
  • Experiencing some of the signs of drug intoxication, including pinpoint pupils and nodding off
  • Failing to fulfil your ongoing responsibilities at school, work, or home due to your current use of opioids
  • Feeling ill whenever you stop using these drugs, due to the development of withdrawal symptoms
  • Finding that you have to take the drugs in higher doses or more often than you used to before you can feel their effects
  • Giving up the activities that you once used to enjoy so that you can spend the time using opioids
  • Running out of your prescription medications sooner than you were supposed to
  • Spending a great deal of time, effort, energy, and money looking for, acquiring, and using these drugs, as well as recovering from their effects
  • Using opioids even when you are in dangerous situations, such as before getting behind the wheel of a car
  • Using opioids in higher doses or over a longer time period than you planned
  • Using these drugs in any other way that you are supposed to - such as by injecting, crushing, smoking, or snorting them
  • Wanting to cut down or quit your use of these drugs but finding that you are not successful in your attempts

Addiction to opioids goes over and beyond the physical dependence that will occur due to your ongoing use of these drugs. For instance, if you have been diagnosed with cancer and you receive a prescription for opioids to manage your pain, you might suffer some withdrawal symptoms if you get off the medication. However, this does not necessarily mean that you are addicted. It is only a sign that you have developed physical dependence.

In fact, addiction often tends to occur once you have developed psychological dependence. If you have this type of dependence, opioids will become central to your life. This means that your need to continue using these medications will become more of a compulsion or craving than a want - even when you get to a point where you realize that the drugs have been causing various problems in your life.

Increasing tolerance and cravings for opioids might cause you to start seeking out other sources of these drugs. For instance, you may engage in doctor shopping or start buying the substances on the street or the internet.

Further, you may change your route of administration - such as by stopping your ingestion of the drugs in favor of crushing the drugs into a fine powder for sniffing, snorting, smoking, and dissolving for intravenous use. This way, you will be able to derive the effects of opioids much faster than you used to - and sometimes for longer periods of time.

More on Opioid Addiction

If you have been taking opioids repeatedly and for a long time - irrespective of the reasons why you became addicted in the first place - there is a high risk that your body could reduce its natural production of endorphins.

At some point, you will realize that the dose of opioids that you have become accustomed to no longer triggers the pleasurable and euphoric effects that you have gotten accustomed to. This condition is referred to as the development of tolerance.

Opioid addiction is such a common occurrence because people who have become tolerant to the drugs often end up increasing their normal doses or taking the substances more often than they used to. Over time, tolerance is replaced by both physical and psychological dependence, right before they become addicted.

Today, doctors understand the various risks that come with opioid use. As a result, they will often not renew your prescription or increase your dose of these medications. However, this may not always stop you from getting your hands on the substances.

For instance, you might start buying your opioids off the streets or over the dark web. Alternatively, you could make the switch from prescription medications to illicit and synthetic opioids like fentanyl and heroin. This is because these replacements would often be more widely available and cheaper than your prescriptions.

Getting Help

In case you suspect that you have developed tolerance, you should not resort to these courses of action. Instead, you need to inform your doctor about what is happening in your body and ask them for help.

They can offer you a wide variety of recovery options. The sooner that you get the help that you need, the easier it might be for you to overcome your growing opioid use disorder. This help will often come in the form of addiction treatment and rehabilitation services - on both and inpatient and outpatient basis.

The important thing is to ensure that you check into the right addiction recovery program - as soon as you notice that you have been taking opioids in higher doses than you should. This is irrespective of the risk factors of opioid addiction that you have, or used to display.












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