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Top 4 Opioid Addiction Risk Factors


Many factors, such as genetic, emotional and social elements, can contribute to a person’s risk of opioid addiction. Having any of these traits doesn’t always mean someone will become addicted to opioids, but they should take extra care. This guide will cover four common risk factors for opioid use disorder.

1. History of Substance Use

A person’s history of substance use influences their risk of developing an opioid addiction. Someone who currently misuses a drug or has misused one before has a higher risk of opioid addiction than someone without a history. This pattern may have a link to the way that drug misuse changes brain chemistry. Substance use disorders that could influence someone’s risk of opioid addiction can include:

  • Stimulants
  • Alcohol
  • Psychedelic drugs
  • Marijuana
  • Tobacco

Prescription opioid use can also put someone at a higher risk of using illicit opioids like heroin, even when that opioid was prescribed and taken for a legitimate purpose at the outset. When a person has a prolonged prescription for an opioid, they can have a higher risk of addiction.

2. Untreated Mental Health Conditions

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, many people who develop substance use disorders also have mental health conditions. Due to the complexity of mental health, researchers don’t know if one factor causes the other. Factors that influence the connection between mental health conditions and opioid addiction include:

  • Similar risk factors: Opioid addiction and mental health disorders have many risk factors in common. These factors include stress, environment and trauma.
  • Mental health influencing addiction: Some mental health conditions could increase a person’s risk of opioid addiction. Specific changes in brain activity may result in a higher vulnerability to opioid use disorder.
  • Addiction impacting mental health: Substance use disorders like opioid addiction change the areas of the brain related to some mental health conditions. This effect could result in a higher risk of addiction.

Mental health conditions also have a link to a higher risk of opioid-related death.

3. Younger Age

Young adults have the highest risk of developing opioid addiction out of all adult age groups. In 2014, 8.1 percent of adults ages 18 to 25 misused opioids. Trends in this data between 2002 and 2014 showed a sharp decrease from 2002. During 2002, 11.5 percent of young adults misused opioids.

4. Social or Family Environments That Encourage Misuse

Someone’s surrounding environment can also influence their risk of opioid addiction. These environmental factors may raise a person’s risk of opioid use disorder:

  • Lack of social support
  • Current or previous legal issues
  • Family history of substance misuse
  • Childhood adversity or abuse
  • History of trauma

Other social factors like economic depression in the community or environments that encourage opioid use also increase risk.

Let MedMark Treatment Centers Help

Opioid addiction has multiple risk factors not limited to the ones covered in this guide. If you think you or a loved one has opioid use disorder, you can get help. MedMark Treatment Centers assist patients across the United States in recovery from opioid addiction. Learn more about our services or schedule your first appointment by contacting us online.

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