This is a multi-faceted problem and I would like to shed some light on the prescribing process. Unfortunately, general physicians are often not well-equipped with the knowledge to evaluate if a certain individual has addiction tendencies. As a result, they lack the protocols to properly evaluate long-term risks associated with opioid use by certain individuals. While there is a time and a place for use of opioids in the course of care, the risks of creating dependence are much higher in some populations than others.
Additionally, there does appear to be an over-prescription scenario. When certain individuals have tolerance or do not respond to a certain pain medication, a physician will often switch them to another — and then another — until a good fit is found. Unfortunately, that creates an overexposure for the individual and when you couple this with addictive predispositions, you have a recipe for dependence.
In some cases we have evaluated, we see patients moving off of prescribed pain medications and embarking on a heroin addiction. It is reported by the National Institute of Drug Abuse that nearly half of heroin users, in one particular study, reported having started as abusers of opioid-based pain medication.
Author: Seda Gragossian, Ph.D.
Talk Therapy Psychology Center
Source of citation: NIDA Drug Facts