Many Who Use Prescription Opioids for 2 Months or More Get Addicted

Extensive survey finds worrying results
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 9, 2016 2:32 PM CST
Many Who Use Prescription Opioids for 2 Months or More Get Addicted
In this Friday, July 20, 2007 file photo, demonstrators march along Main Street in Abingdon, Va., to raise awareness about the abuse of OxyContin.   (David Crigger/Bristol Herald Courier via AP)

A powerful survey from the Washington Post and the Kaiser Family Foundation finds that, of the 622 long-term prescription opioid users (at least two months of use) surveyed, "virtually all" were introduced to the drugs not through illicit means but via a prescription from a doctor, more than 60% got no advice from said doctor as to how or when to stop using the painkillers, and one-third ended up addicted to or physically dependent on the drugs. The Post calls the survey "one of the most comprehensive polls of long-term opioid users to date." Another 187 people who said they share a household with an opioid user were also surveyed, and their responses to the question of addiction or physical dependence were different from the users' responses: More than half of them suspected the users they live with are addicted, and they were also more likely to say that the drugs have caused harm to the users' health, finances, or relationships.

But, while the survey "raises sharp questions about the responsibility of doctors for an epidemic of addiction and overdose that has claimed nearly 180,000 lives since 2000," as the Post puts it, it also found that most long-term opioid users say the drugs improve their lives, allowing them to walk, work, and do other things that pain would otherwise prevent. Two-thirds of those surveyed said the risk of getting addicted was worth it because of how much relief the drugs offer. The survey results were released as the CDC announced opioid deaths (from both prescription and illegal sources, such as heroin) skyrocketed again last year. A new study is also out showing that doctors discussing the risks of opioid abuse with patients could reduce misuse and abuse. The Post says about 5% of US adults have used prescription opioids for at least two months during the past two years, and around half of those people say they've taken them for two years or more. Click for more from the Post survey. (More opioids stories.)

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