Researchers at University of Georgia Find Link Between Opioid Misuse and Heroin Addiction

The pharmaceutical industry is booming in America. In 2011 alone, the U.S. saw pharmaceutical sales total a staggering $231.46 billion.

Unfortunately, many prescription drugs are misused, and may lead to deeper forms of addiction.

A recent study conducted by researchers at the University of Georgia reveals that individuals who misuse prescription drugs are more likely to have a history of abusing illicit drugs, regardless of age.

As reported by Psychiatry Advisor, the manner in which illicit drug abusers depends on the age of the individual. For those age 50 and above, addicts typically received the prescription opiates from a licensed physician. Younger addicts, on the other hand, typically procure prescription drugs from unauthorized sources such as drug dealers, family members, and friends.

To state the obvious, America is amidst a serious opioid crisis.

While heroin was once known as an urban drug, the abuse of illicit opiates has dramatically increased in suburban areas, such as Long Island and Westchester, two areas in downstate New York.

In 2013 alone, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that there were more than 16,000 deaths involving prescription opioids, an increase of 1% from 2012.

The increase in incidence of opiate use and death can be attributed to the low cost and easy accessibility of the lethal and highly addictive substance; one bag of heroin can cost as little as $8.

To conduct the study, the researchers reviewed the survey responses of over 13,000 individuals aged 12 and up from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. This survey collects self-reported data on a plethora of topics, such as prescription drugs, mental health, and illicit drugs.

Despite the study’s findings, researchers are still unsure what creates the correlation between misusing prescription opiates and using illicit drugs. They surmise that it might be because of chronic or unmanaged pain, or attributed to users’ inherently addictive personalities.

Researchers are also unsure of how these individuals become addicted to drugs in the first place, perhaps because the understanding of how and why someone becomes an addict is multidimensional and complicated.

Many researchers are now examining addiction from a biological point of view, focusing their attentions on individuals who have a predisposed predilection for substance abuse based on genetic or neurochemical attributes.

While there is far more research to be done on the subject of addiction, perhaps this study will allow the world of medicine to begin tailoring treatment and interventions by age.

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