Drug addiction has become a national epidemic. It is now more important than ever for people to become educated about what drug use and addiction mean.
“What we must understand is that drug use is a preventable behavior but addiction is a treatable disease of the brain. The most important thing to remember when dealing with a loved one with disease is that recovery is possible,” notes Andrea G. Barthwell, MD , Chief Medical Officer of Treatment Management Behavioral Health (TMBH) and former deputy drug czar to President George W. Bush.
The phrase “drug addicts” might bring to mind people living on the street or doing anything they can for their next hit. While that exists, it is not how the majority of addicts live.
In fact, with more than 23 million Americans dependent on drugs, according to a report by Closing the Addiction Treatment Gap , many live what might be considered regular lives, working jobs and hiding their condition.
One addiction that is easy to hide and has seen recent exponential growth is to prescription opioids, pain relievers that include methadone, oxycodone (such as OxyContin) and hydrocodone (such as Vicodin).
“The new epidemic created by the over prescription of opioid pain relievers has everyone talking,” addictionblog.org says. “The reality is that access to pain meds is relatively easy, inexpensive and creating new addicts every day.”
While drug use is often attributed to young people, the fastest growing group of opioid addicts is people ages 50-69, according to Medscape Medical News . Some triggers unique to seniors include retirement, death of a loved one, having to move and mental or physical decline, according to Addiction Center .
Women are more likely than men to use opioids, but men are more likely to die from an overdose, according to the CDC.
“When women use drugs, there is a further complication called “telescoping.” The disease advances faster in woman than men and more importantly, they are more likely than men to have a using partner,” reports Dr. Barthwell. “Additionally, a woman is more likely to have a major psychological diagnosis which worsens outcomes without special care for both diagnoses.”
What may be surprising is, when it comes to overdose deaths, the gap between genders is closing, the CDC says. Additionally, women are more likely to be given higher doses of pain reliever drugs and become dependent on them more quickly than men, according to the American Society of Addiction Medicine .
“For most age groups, men have higher rates of use or dependence on illicit drugs and alcohol than do women,” the National Institute on Drug Abuse says. “However, women are just as likely as men to become addicted. In addition, women may be more susceptible to craving and relapse, which are key phases of the addiction cycle.”