The Presence of Opioids in Households Influences Family Members to Get Their Own Painkiller Prescriptions

When someone in a household is prescribed opioids, the family members who live with them are highly likely to also seek out their own opioid prescriptions, according to a new study in JAMA. Opioid addiction is currently a major epidemic and public health emergency in the U.S., and caused over 53,000 overdose deaths in 2016. This latest finding adds to existing evidence that opioids are still being overprescribed and made easily accessible to children, teens, seniors, and other household members at high risk for opioid abuse.

Why Do Family Members Want Their Own Opioids?

Painkiller Prescriptions

People are more likely to experiment with painkillers when someone in their household has a prescription.

Researchers involved in the JAMA study examined data on 12.6 million Americans who lived in households where someone was prescribed opioids, and 6.4 million Americans in households where someone was prescribed non-opioid pain relievers. They learned that 11.83% of people from the first group, and 11.11% of people from the second group all started using opioids within the next year.

Doctors and researchers who read this latest study say there are several reasons family members of opioid users might want to obtain their own opioid prescriptions. First, certain ailments and health conditions that cause chronic pain may be genetic, and affect other family members. Second, living with an opioid user can alter and affect family members’ beliefs and attitudes surrounding using opioids to treat pain.

Third, opioid users may offer their leftover, unused opioids to other family members who don’t really need them, or leave leftover pills in medicine cabinets where they can be easily accessed and used by visitors, friends, and family members of all ages. These latter practices have been shown to be driving causes of opioid abuse. A large percentage of family members who become dependent on opioids for these reasons may eventually seek out their own prescriptions to continue fueling their addictions.

The Role Environment Plays in Addiction

Environment is one of the leading risk factors of addiction in the U.S. Research shows that those who spend lots of time in environments where drugs and alcohol are accessible and used regularly are more susceptible to addiction than those who spend time in drug-free environments.

In households where opioids are used frequently, the other people who live there are more likely to try and experiment with opioids, even without a valid prescription. Unfortunately, since opioid doses are normally tailored to the patients they’re originally prescribed for, others who take these medications are often at high risk for an overdose or dependency — especially those with low tolerance levels. Experimentation with opioids can eventually turn into regular use, which is followed by dependency and psychological addiction.

Getting Help for Painkiller Addiction

Though opioid painkillers are legal substances that are widely used to treat chronic pain, using these pills without a valid prescription is highly dangerous, and against the law. Fentanyl, oxycodone, and morphine are just some highly potent opioids that can lead to an overdose in someone who uses these drugs without a prescription. Fortunately, those who need help overcoming painkiller addiction can get professional help at an opioid detox center and eliminate their painkiller cravings.

Opioid and painkiller addiction is commonly treated using a combination of opiate detox and therapy. An opiate detox can be conducted using medication-assisted treatment, or MAT — which involves the use of medications like buprenorphine and methadone that can completely eliminate opioid cravings and other withdrawal symptoms. Following an opioid detox or MAT, patients can receive therapy to learn how to overcome the psychological root causes of their painkiller addiction.

If you or someone you love needs help fighting opioid addiction, call our 24/7 confidential helpline at 800-996-6135(Who Answers?) . Our caring addiction counselors will help you explore all your treatment options so you can successfully overcome painkiller addiction and get back to living a healthy, drug-free lifestyle.

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