Concerns about rising rates of prescription drug abuse have reiterated that some cases of addiction are directly related to the specific substance rather than underlying emotional challenges or environmental factors that make the substance tempting.

The Statistics

Non-Medical Reasons

Teenagers and young adults are more likely to abuse prescription pain relievers than older adults. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), roughly 13 percent of men and women between 18 and 25 have taken prescription pain relievers for recreational or non-medical reasons. Another 7 percent of children between 12 and 17 have used prescriptions in a way that deviates from the direction of a doctor.

Furthermore, the rate of prescription medication overdoses has increased steadily since 1999. According to the NIDA, the number of overdose cases related to prescription drug abuse increased 250 percent in 2010 when compared to 1999. The number of emergency room visits each year is increasing and many cases are directly related to taking
prescription drugs.

Although the statistics are directly related to medical emergencies and the increased rate of substance abuse, some of the cases of addiction develop on accident or directly from the substance rather than emotional trauma or environmental factors.

Addictive Quality of the Drugs

Although the prescription drug abuse rates illustrate the growing problem with addictions that develop directly from the substance, other drugs are known to have highly addictive qualities.

Drugs that are commonly considered highly addictive include:

Highly Addictive Drugs

  • Cocaine
  • Crack cocaine
  • Methamphetamine drugs
  • Heroin
  • Prescription opiates
  • Alcohol
  • Amphetamine drugs

Even though certain substances are provided by doctors for legitimate medical reasons, the addictive nature of the substance can make it hard to break away from the habit of using the substance in the future.

Drugs that are highly addictive can cause dependence to develop at a rapid pace. In some cases, it is even possible to become addicted after the first one or two times the drug is used because the substance causes a reaction in the brain that craves the drug.

Accidental Addictions

Since addictions to certain substances are directly related to the drug, it is possible to develop an accidental addiction to certain medications that were provided for a legitimate medical reason. Some cases of prescription drug abuse develop after a medical emergency, accident or injury that requires medication.

Common reasons that doctors provide addictive substances to treat patients include:

  • Major injuries that cause severe pain to individuals in a hospital
  • Chronic pain from a health condition
  • Chronic pain with no obvious cause
  • Major surgery that will continue causing pain until the body recovers
  • Treating mental or physical health conditions

In those situations, a doctor gives his or her patients medication to help reduce the feelings of pain and discomfort or to alleviate symptoms of a health problem. The purpose of the medication is directly related to legitimate medical needs, but the addictive quality of the drug can lead to an addiction if measures are not taken to prevent a physical dependence from developing.

Most medical doctors will start providing prescription drugs in a low dose to help reduce the risk of addiction. When the medication is no longer necessary, doctors will often gradually reduce the dosage so that withdrawal symptoms do not develop and it is possible to give up the substance without facing the worst of the symptoms.

The downside is that some individuals will develop an addiction, even if medical professionals take precautions to limit the risks. Once an addiction develops, appropriate treatment is necessary to help fight against the problem.

Regardless of whether the drug was taken for recreational purposes or for a legitimate medical reason, the cause of an addiction may directly relate to the drug rather than emotional factors or the environment around an individual. Many substances that are abused are highly addictive and can result in the development of physical dependence.

Understanding the cause of an addiction to drugs or alcohol can help identify appropriate treatment approaches when a loved one is struggling to fight against the drugs. Substance abuse is not always about feeling good and the reasons for an addiction differ with each individual.

Fighting against the addiction is possible once the underlying causes and reasons for the initial substance abuse are identified because treating an addiction that developed as a result of emotional trauma is different than an addiction that developed accidentally.

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The Causes of Drug Addiction