Who Is at Greater Risk When It Comes to Opioid Addiction?

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October 21, 2020

Anyone who takes opioids, regardless of whether it’s in a prescription form or illegally, is at risk for developing an addiction. This class of drugs is highly addictive because it minimizes feelings of pain while activating the brain’s reward centers and triggering the release of endorphins.

What Are Some Opioid Addiction Risk Factors?

There are various opioid addiction risk factors that can contribute to an increased risk for addiction and overdose in some populations.

Genetic Factors

Some genetic factors can play a role in opioid addiction, though more study needs to be done in this area. Opioids work by attaching to receptors in the body’s internal system, which regulate pleasure and pain. As a result, variations in the OPRM1 gene — which produces an opioid receptor — appear to influence how a person’s body responds to opioid usage.

Environmental Factors

Certain home, social and community environments can also put some populations at a greater risk for developing an opioid overdose or addiction. A few risk factors include a family history of substance abuse as well as growing up in a home that encourages misuse of drugs or other substances.

Beyond just the home setting, various other environmental factors in social groups or the community can put individuals at risk — especially children and adolescents. Risk factors include:

  • Being in regular contact with others who abuse opioids
  • Having easy access to opioids
  • Lack of social support
  • Living in poverty

Psychological Factors

Because opioids have the potential to numb distressing pain and emotions, certain psychological factors can also increase the risk of developing an opioid addiction.

These factors include:

  • Depression or anxiety
  • Stress
  • Somatization disorder
  • Mental illness such as bipolar disorder
  • Psychotropic substance use
  • Trauma (especially childhood abuse)

How to Prevent Opioid Abuse and Addiction

Over the years, various tools and tests have been developed to help determine an individual’s risk level for developing an opioid addiction. These tests, ranging from the Opioid Risk Tool (ORT) to the Brief Risk Interview, are simple and straightforward. Once complete, the results can be used to identify individuals who most likely would benefit from enhanced measures to prevent opioid abuse or addiction.

While these tools are helpful, preventing opioid abuse needs to be a widespread community effort. Family members and friends need to be aware of individuals that they might know who may be at an increased risk of opioid addiction. Medical professionals, even during regular wellness checks, need to be alert to patients who may be displaying risk factors or signs of opioid misuse. Additionally, both in the home, community and medical settings, opioid medications need to be managed, stored and disposed of appropriately.

Receive Help at AppleGate Recovery if You Are Struggling With Opioid Addiction

At AppleGate Recovery, we provide medication-assisted rehab programs for adults dealing with opioid addiction. Through our comprehensive, individualized treatment, we’ll provide you with the tools, care and support you need to achieve lasting recovery — while still continuing to live your life.

To see what recovery looks like for you, contact us today.