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For the past two decades drug addiction in the United States has climbed steadily until now, in 2017, it is at a record high. It has become a problem of epidemic proportions, taking lives and wreaking havoc in the form of overdoses by the dozens every day. Opioid addiction crosses all cultural and financial boundaries, affecting the poorest neighborhoods and ghettos and the wealthiest of communities alike, as well as all points in between.

In this day and age of the information superhighway where knowledge and warnings of such dangers are shared worldwide in mere seconds, how is this possible? How is it that the caveats of those who have fallen victim to this deadly epidemic are not being heard and heeded?

The answer is because most people are unaware that there are certain risk factors that significantly increase a person’s chances of becoming addicted to opioids in particular. Many don’t realize that addiction begins with a seemingly safe and innocent prescription from their trusted family doctor. Even when used exactly as directed, prolonged use of any opioid will decrease it’s effect on pain as the body builds up an immunity, or “tolerance” to it. When the medication no longer works to kill the pain, it isn’t uncommon for the patient to begin taking more of the prescription than instructed. When the medicine no longer has any effect at all on their suffering, they will often turn to a stronger form of drug – whether it is legal or not – in order to find relief. This can also happen when a person loses their insurance or their medical coverage and/or is no longer able to afford the expensive prescription medication. The illicit street drugs are far less costly.

There are a number of other factors which can also have a heavy influence on a predisposition to addiction. They include:

1. FAMILY HISTORY- The number of members of the same family who often fall victim to addiction points to a genetic predisposition. The closer the blood relation, the higher the risk of addiction.

2. DEPRESSION/ANXIETY- For those who suffer from depression or anxiety disorders, opioids provide relief from the tormenting psychological effects that often accompany these conditions.

3. MEN ARE AT GREATER RISK THAN WOMEN- Studies have indicated that males are more inclined than females to become addicts, although sadly those numbers have begun to even out in recent years.

4. ABANDONMENT BY FAMILY- Lack of healthy, nurturing family relationships and bonds with parents, siblings, etc, can greatly increase the chances of developing an addiction as individuals seek comfort from their feelings of loneliness and rejection.

5. PEER PRESSURE- Though nearly archaic-sounding in modern times, the number one cause of drug experimentation which can so easily lead to addiction is the influence on young people by their peer group and friends.

By being aware of the main triggers and pitfalls which can lead down the spiraling path to dangerous, often deadly opioid abuse, there is hope. Addiction can be prevented, treated, overcome. The best way to deal with these issues is prevention. Education, open communication, compassion, professional intervention whenever necessary, all will work together to stop the cycle of addiction. Personal awareness and accountability, a willingness to ask for help when it is needed, honesty, and not allowing feelings of embarrassment, shame, or fear of being judged to overshadow the need for guidance and help – these are the keys to preventing, overcoming, and eliminating this scourge once and for all.