Community Issues

Family and Friends, not Doctors, Are Most Common Route to Opioid Addiction

A new study finds that addicts are more likely to find their first pills in a medicine cabinet than from a doctor's prescription.

It has been widely known that abuse of prescription opioids often is the start of addiction, which can lead to the use of heroin or fentanyl. However, a new study disputes the notion that the most common gateway to addiction is a doctor's prescription for a patient.

According to researchers at Penn State and other universities, the most common introduction to opioids is from a family member, friend or other trusted person. These findings, titled "Opioid misuse initiation: Implications for intervention," were published this week in the Journal of Addictive Diseases.

"I think our findings contrast with the popular media narrative that's out there right now and the public perception," Khary Rigg, an assistant professor at the University of South Florida and co-author of the study, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "When you talk to the average person on the street, they think it's all about big pharma and that doctors are overprescribing. Our findings show that the two top common sources for getting opioids are friends or family."

A new study finds that doctors are not the most common "gateway" to opioid addiction. Addicts are more likely to obtain pills from a family member or friend.

The study found that approximately one-third of addicts were personally prescribed opioids following a surgery, tooth extraction or another medical event. But the majority obtained their first pill from a family or friend, usually as a gift. A smaller number stole their first pills or paid the family member or friend.

According to the Post-Gazette, researchers say even just taking an unprescribed pill or two may trigger more disastrous effects down the road, particularly if the pills are consumed by a teenager .

The findings also underscore the importance of Drug Take Back Days where people can safely and securely dispose of their unused or expired opioids in their medicine cabinet. Last month, several Giant Eagle locations started offering permanent Take Back Boxes.

If you're looking for a location to safely discard unused prescription drugs, you can click here.

You can click here for more information on drug abuse prevention, and resources if you or a loved one are struggling with addiction.

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