Who is at Risk for Opioid Addiction?

Who is at Risk for Opioid Addiction?

While anyone can become addicted to opioid medications, there are some risk factors that make one more likely to have dependence. Let’s take a look at some of those factors that can help screen patients for potential abuse.

Genetics

As science is breaking open the secrets of DNA, we’re finding out that more and more of our problems are related to genetics. Addiction is no different. If someone has a family history of addiction, they’re at greater risk for developing it as well.

While some people can use opioids and have no problems with addiction, there are some that feel the effects of addiction early in their use. Genetics may play a bigger role than any other factor.

In fact, scientists estimate that genetics are responsible for 50-75% of addiction issues. Unfortunately, there’s no test on the market to help determine if you have a genetic predisposition. But looking at family history can give a window into this possibility.

Psychological Risk Factors

Some people also have risk factors due to psychological issues. For example, having a high stress lifestyle or issues with anxiety and depression can make one predisposed to addiction when opioids are introduced.

People who tend to be very impulsive or thrill seeking may also be at higher risk of addiction. Some personality disorders or psychiatric disorders also make it more likely that using opioids will result in addiction.

Environmental Risk Factors

While some people have built-in biological risk factors, others experience things in their environment or experience that make drug addiction a higher risk. Often these are related to trauma that has occurred.

For example, people who have experienced physical, sexual, or emotional abuse are more likely to become addicted to substances. This is also true for people who have experienced traumatic violence or war.

Growing up with a parent or family member who struggled with substance abuse or addiction can also increase the risk for future addiction whether or not genetics play a role. Having substance abuse in the home creates an environment where there is more access to these substances as well as normalizing substance abuse.

There can also be cultural influences that increase the risk of substance abuse and addiction. When the culture around a person normalizes this use, it’s more likely to seem like something appropriate.

Gateway Substance Use

Individuals who begin using substances at a young age have a higher likelihood of developing addiction issues later in life. For example, if alcohol or nicotine are used at an early age one is more likely to begin using more and more powerful substances.

These less powerful substances act as a gateway normalizing substance use and misuse. They also may begin to lose their effect over time causing a person to seek stronger drugs to achieve the same effects.

The Challenge for Professionals

While these factors can increase the risk of addiction, there are still many challenges for health professionals working to prevent and treat addiction. Many of these factors are hidden and not obvious to a physician trying to make decisions about medication prescriptions.

As a result, the medical community is working to create pain management plans that are free from opioids to reduce the risk of anyone becoming addicted.

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