The phrase “drug addicts” might bring to mind people living on the street or doing anything they can for their next hit. While that exists, it is not how the majority of addicts live.
In fact, with more than 23 million Americans addicted to drugs, according to a report by Closing the Addiction Treatment Gap, many live what might be considered regular lives, working jobs and hiding their addiction.
One addiction that is easy to hide and has seen exponential growth is to prescription opioids, pain relievers that include methadone, oxycodone (such as OxyContin) and hydrocodone (such as Vicodin).
“The new epidemic created by the over prescription of opioid pain relievers has everyone talking,” addictionblog.org says. “The reality is that access to pain meds is relatively easy, inexpensive and creating new addicts every day.”
While drug use is often attributed to young people, the fastest growing group of opioid addicts is people ages 50-69, according to Medscape Medical News. Some triggers unique to seniors include retirement, death of a loved one, having to move and mental or physical decline, according to Addiction Center.
Women are more likely than men to use opioids, but men are more likely to die from an overdose, according to the CDC.
What may be surprising is, when it comes to overdose deaths, the gap between genders is closing, the CDC says. Additionally, women are more likely to be given higher doses of pain reliever drugs and become dependent on them more quickly than men, according to the American Society of Addiction Medicine.
“For most age groups, men have higher rates of use or dependence on illicit drugs and alcohol than do women,” the National Institute on Drug Abuse says. “However, women are just as likely as men to become addicted. In addition, women may be more susceptible to craving and relapse, which are key phases of the addiction cycle.”
Income and resources
Although opioid prescriptions are more common for patients with a high socioeconomic status, according to a study in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, overdose deaths are more common for people with a low socioeconomic status.
The keys to understanding this peculiar situation are social and economic factors,
according to research in Public Health Reports.
“They affect health indirectly by shaping individual drug-use behavior; they affect health directly by affecting the availability of resources, access to social welfare systems, marginalization and compliance with medication,” the researchers write.
Legal drugs obtained illegally
The reason for these unexpected faces of addiction may stem from the fact that opioids are legal, versus heroin or cocaine, and addicts often are put on the road to addiction through an innocent prescription. Over time, patients may doctor-shop, visiting many doctors to refill a prescription.
Overwhelmingly, though, the most common way to get opioids for illegal use is from a loved one.
“Most non-medical users get the drugs from a friend or relative, often for free but occasionally buying or stealing them," drugabuse.com says.
How to help
During one of the most widely known methods, an intervention, include only people who will offer love and support.
“Avoid including people who cannot contain their judgment or temper their emotions,” drugabuse.com says. “If you need, you can enlist the help of an interventionist who can take the reigns in the planning and implementation of the meeting.”
If a direct approach won’t work, some families have success with a treatment that helps them work with an addict, instead of targeting the person.
Beating an addiction to painkillers or heroin may require rehabilitation, therapy and drug treatment. If your loved one is battling a heroin addiction, seek out a drug rehabilitation facility like Recovery in Motion.