Study author Orion Mowbray, PhD, told Clinical Pain Advisor that researchers are still unsure as to why individuals who’ve used illicit drugs within the past year are more likely to misuse prescription painkillers than those who’ve not. 

“On the one hand, these individuals could have significant unmanaged pain that they are trying, by any means, to regulate through the use of heroin, marijuana, etc.,” said Mowbray, who is an assistant professor at the University of Georgia’s School of Social Work. “On the other hand, these individuals could be battling a significant addiction, where pain reliever misuse is used in tandem with other drugs to get their fix and stave off withdrawal.”

What’s also unclear is how the majority of individuals become addicted to illicit drugs in the first place. There are several things to consider before understanding how and why a patient becomes an addict. 


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“There is an increasing trend to examine addiction from a strictly biological standpoint,” he said. “Persons are perhaps born with a predilection for misuse, through genetic and neurochemical traits or both.”

He added: “However, I believe that multiple factors, including biological risk are most likely. It is important to remember that social determinants, including income, gender and a person’s mental health status, as well as structural factors such as ease of access all contribute to rates of addiction.”

“The medical community can use this study as a call to develop tailored, age appropriate interventions to reduce the misuse of prescription pain relievers,” Mowbray said. 

Reference

1. Mowbray O, et al. Addict Behav. 2015; doi: 10.1016/j.addbeh.2015.06.006.