Hope for Those Who Suffer from Opioid Addiction
Written by Greg Hitchcock, in Section Parent Resources
Every year, millions of Americans struggle with opioid addiction.
In 2015, about 2.6 million people aged 12 or older suffered opioid addiction involving two common forms of the drug. Opioids include many pain relief prescriptions, plus dangerous street drugs like heroin.
In 2015, 276,000 U.S. youths aged 12-17 used pain relievers for recreation or other non-medical purposes. It’s possible to become addicted to opioid medication even following a doctor’s instructions – but most young people first get drugs from a friend or family member.
Opioids produce addictive behavior by attaching to specialized receptors in the brain. They mimic natural chemicals closely enough to activate nerve cells and flood the brain with dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure. Through their powerful effects, the brain quickly links opioids with pleasure.
Other experiences pale in comparison, and the addiction sufferer “needs” more.
Opioid addiction is a terrible experience to go through at any age, but there is hope. Every year, thousands of people confront addiction and move forward with their lives in safe, productive, substance-free ways.
The key? Understanding the underlying causes of addiction among young people and how loved ones can help.
Understanding the Causes
With loving care and support, recovery is possible – especially for young people.
Youths of all backgrounds overwhelmingly turn to opioids because of powerful emotions they have trouble controlling. They might feel overwhelmed, alienated, or unable to make a difference in their lives. Often, they do not know who to turn to and become isolated from loving adults.
These feelings can emerge due to disruptive life events or simply because of a pattern of stress at school, work, or within the family the young person feels helpless to change. Substance use can start innocently, borrowing a friend’s prescription to feel more mellow for a night.
Because young people often become withdrawn long before they start using opioids, it can take time for family, friends, and loved ones to suspect a problem. Yes, drugs do create a chemical dependency – but just as important is helping youths learn and grow beyond the fears, anger, or insecurities that might have drawn them toward opioid abuse in the first place.
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