Prescription Drug Abuse: Who Gets Addicted and Why?
Addiction Calls for Compassion, Not Condemnation
Whether or not someone is susceptible to opioid addiction depends on genes
and early experiences. Studies have shown that when opiates are taken exactly
as directed, they are safe, can manage pain effectively, and rarely cause
addiction. When a person begins to experience signs of prescription pain
medication abuse, he or she can avoid drug addiction -- defined as the
compulsive and uncontrolled use of drugs despite adverse consequences -- by
stopping use completely. But once true opioid addiction takes hold, the
condition can be as firmly rooted as other chronic diseases like diabetes or
high blood pressure, experts believe.
Even after breaking free from physical dependence through a detox program,
most people with opioid addiction relapse. They may need long-term maintenance
therapy with methadone or Suboxone (buprenorphine/naloxone) -- weaker opioids
that prevent craving and withdrawal -- along with counseling to break the cycle
of detox and relapse.
Because of the biological basis for opioid addiction, condemnation and
criticism are counterproductive, experts say. Although people often act
hurtfully in the grip of opioid addiction, support from family, friends, and
doctors is essential to their recovery. "People recovering from opioid
addiction are in the fight of their lives," says Jamison. "They need
all the help they can get."