Tuesday, May 24, 2016
A fellow in the University of Minnesota’s Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Annie Burton, MD, has a longstanding interest in addiction medicine. Annie Burton, MD, and others have observed an alarming increase in opioid-related mortality over the past several years; the most recent figures point to 29,000 people dying from opioid overdoses annually.
As reported recently in Scientific American, a history of opioid addiction is rampant among hard drug users, with the vast majority of heroin addicts starting down that path through prescription medications. While medical use does play some part in this, the story is more complex than many perceive it to be. Some 90 percent of addictions are rooted in the adolescent and young adult period, with heavy use of recreational drugs and alcohol the single biggest risk factor.
New addictions are not common among adults who come to opioids as a treatment for chronic pain, with the rate of addiction among this demographic hovering at between 8 and 12 percent. With a large majority of people prescribed pain medication using it responsibly, the real issues driving opioid abuse seems to be traumatic childhood events, unemployment, and mental illness.