Drug overdoses kill 29,000 Americans a year, with the majority of those deaths being from opiate and heroin abuse. While campaigners like to draw a link between opioid and heroin abuse, no studies have revealed anything beyond correlation. Most heroin abusers have used opioids before because most Americans have used opioids at least once in their lifetimes. By the same token, most heroin users have used soap in the past. This doesn’t mean cleanliness caused their addictions. The DSM, fortunately, provides a better idea of addiction’s cause.
Addiction vs Dependency
The DSM-V separates addiction into two separate diagnoses:
- Substance dependency, which is a physiological tolerance to a substance without psychiatric involvement.
- Addictive/Substance abuse disorder, which involves behavior.
The psychopathological model sees mental disorders as the cause of addiction. Saying opioid painkillers lead to heroin addiction is thus like saying razorblades are the cause of self-mutilation.
When Medication Creates Addiction
The circumstances surrounding a patient’s need to take painkillers should be carefully monitored. For example, if they are prescribed painkillers after undergoing a traumatic event, they may be at higher risk for self-medicating, which can lead to addiction.
If you’re taking opiates due to a substance dependency, the odds are excellent that you’ll never pick up heroin. If you have an underlying pathology like substance abuse disorder, your drug of choice is probably “more”—of anything, whether it be heroin or stronger opioids or a bottle of vodka.
It’s critical that opioid users receive the correct diagnosis because a substance abuse disorder requires specialized care. Those who have developed a dependency are generally able to take narcotic medications without abusing them, but those with substance abuse disorders should avoid that entire class of drugs, from benzodiazepines to pseudoephedrine and Oxycodone.
This doesn’t make dependency a pleasant problem. If you’ve developed a tolerance and are suffering from severe rebound pain, you deserve freedom from a toxic cycle that’s likely leaving your body in constant crisis. Besides, long-term side effects can create more health problems down the road. At Pain Stop Clinics, we treat pain with a holistic approach based on each unique patient profile.