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Who’s Most at Risk of Opium Abuse?

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Opium-based substances encompass a wide assortment of natural and synthetic drugs. While some drug types may carry higher abuse risks, opium, in most any form, interacts with the brain and body in the same way.

In effect, opium’s chemical makeup blends in easily with the brain’s chemical system. Over time, the brain comes to depend on opium’s presence to maintain a state of equilibrium.

These conditions make for a wide range of risk factors in terms of who’s most susceptible to opium abuse. For people who fall prey to the effects of these drugs, making the decision to get needed treatment help can mean the difference between a never-ending downward spiral of opium abuse and addiction and a chance at living a normal life.

Opium Abuse Trends

opium abuse risk

The number of people acquiring prescription painkillers has more than doubled in the past 20 years.

Today’s opium abuse trends make trends from decades gone by look like kid’s play in terms of the numbers of people affected. Unlike previous decades, opium abuse, whether it be prescription pain medications or heroin, has crossed over from urban areas to the suburbs. In effect, anyone who has health insurance coverage gains ample exposure to the range of prescription pain medications on the market.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, over the past 25 years, the number of prescriptions written for pain pills has increased from 76 million in 1991 to 207 million in 2013. Ultimately, the greater the number of people exposed to opium-based drugs, the higher the opium abuse rate runs.

The Cycle of Abuse

Opium works by disrupting normal brain chemical processes and increasing neurotransmitter level outputs. Groups of brain cells secrete these chemicals on an as-needed basis. When ingested, opium force cells to produce these chemicals in excess.

With frequent or long-term opium abuse, brain cell structures start to deteriorate from overwork, making them less sensitive to opiate’s presence. In turn, users must increase their dosage amounts in order to experience the pain-relieving or “high” effects of the drug. This cycle of cell deterioration and increasing dosage amounts continues for as long as a person keeps using opiates.

Risk Factors

While some people may be more susceptible to drug abuse and addiction than others, risk factors for opium abuse have as much to do with the level of exposure a person has to the drug as it does any physical or environmental predisposition towards drug abuse. According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, risk factors for opium abuse include the following:

  • Having access to multiple prescribers
  • Obtaining multiple prescriptions
  • Taking high dosage levels
  • Being a Medicaid recipient
  • Living in rural locales
  • Low-income households

Risks Associated with Prescription Pain Pill Abuse & When to Seek Treatment

Treatment Considerations

In actuality, opium-based drugs should only be used on a short-term basis not to exceed three months at a time. Taking these drugs for longer periods or not taking them as prescribed opens the door for opium abuse practices to develop.

If you suspect you or someone you know may be engaging in opium abuse and have further questions about the effects of these drugs, please feel free to call our toll-free helpline at 800-429-5210 (Who Answers?) for more information. Our addictions counselors can also help you locate opium rehab programs in your area.

Where do calls go?

For those seeking addiction treatment for themselves or a loved one, our helpline is a private, convenient solution.

Calls to any general helpline (non-facility specific 1-8XX numbers) for your visit will be answered by an admissions representative of Treatment Management Company, a paid sponsor of, to help determine whether their treatment programs are an option for you.

Calls to any specific treatment center listed within our directory are answered directly by those facilities.

Our helpline is offered at no cost to you and carries no obligation to enter into treatment. No commission or other fee is ever paid to that is dependent upon whether you enter treatment, or which treatment provider you ultimately choose.

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