How Drug Addiction Begins

How Drug Addiction Begins

The common perception of a drug addict is often cast by stereotypes. Generally, we imagine a drug problem beginning with a creepy guy prowling around in a dark alley offering drugs to nicely dressed teenagers who fall prey to his tricky ways.

The reality is a bit more complicated. Drug problems originate across many different demographics, with many people gradually succumbing to a drug addiction that they did not anticipate.

Often, drug addictions stem from a legitimate prescription for pain relievers. Some pain relievers carry a high risk for easily building up a tolerance, creating a situation in which the individual needs more and more of the drug to achieve pain relief. A new study by University of Buffalo researchers illustrates the many facets of drug addiction origins.

The study, led by Richard Blondell, found that 31 of 75 patients hospitalized for opioid addiction had begun using the drugs for a legitimate pain problem. 24 of the 75 patients began their addiction by using pills from a parent’s medicine cabinet. The final 20 patients said they became hooked on street drugs.

A large percentage of the individuals had to go searching to keep their addiction fed. 92 percent of the patients in the study said they eventually bought drugs off the street. They cited lower costs and better effectiveness as reasons for seeking out street drugs, with heroin being the most purchased drug on the streets to replace prescription drugs.

There were several reasons that the patients were dependent on the drugs. Some said that the drugs “helped to take away my emotional pain and stress,” while others said they used them “to feel normal.” Still others reported that drugs made them “feel like a better person.”

The UB School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences believes that the information will be useful for training medical students and residents to screen for potential addiction among patients. The information will also be useful when interventions are necessary or to refer a patient for treatment before the addiction becomes dangerous.

Blondell, who is a professor of family medicine and the senior author of the study, explained that because of the increase of the number of patients they are encountering that have a problem with addiction to prescription drugs; they felt the need to better understand how they first became addicted.

The study results showed that 51 percent of the patients said that they first used the drugs for pain relief after surgery, for back pain or following an injury. 49 percent said they initiated use out of curiosity or because they were offered the drugs by someone else.

The results of the study were published in the Journal of Addiction Medicine.

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