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Drug addicts get hooked via prescriptions, keep using 'to feel like a better person,' research shows
Date:8/20/2010

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- If you want to know how people become addicted and why they keep using drugs, ask the people who are addicted.

Thirty-one of 75 patients hospitalized for opioid detoxification told University at Buffalo physicians they first got hooked on drugs legitimately prescribed for pain.

Another 24 began with a friend's left-over prescription pills or pilfered from a parent's medicine cabinet. The remaining 20 patients said they got hooked on street drugs.

However, 92 percent of the patients in the study said they eventually bought drugs off the street, primarily heroin, because it is less expensive and more effective than prescriptions.

They continued using drugs because they "helped to take away my emotional pain and stress," "to feel normal," "to feel like a better person."

Results of the study appear in the current issue of Journal of Addiction Medicine.

The information will be used to train medical students and residents at the UB School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences and practicing physicians to screen for potential addiction among their patients, and to perform an intervention or refer for treatment before an addiction becomes life-threatening.

"We are seeing an increase in the number of patients addicted to prescription

drugs," says Richard Blondell, MD, professor of family medicine and senior author on the study, "so we wanted to better understand how they first got hooked.

"This information suggests that there is a progressive nature to opioid use, and that prescription opioids can be the gateway to illicit drug addiction. It also tells us that people who use prescriptions illegally may be at greater risk for subsequent heroin use than those who use prescriptions legally."

The study group was recruited from patients admitted to the detoxification unit in Erie County Medical Center in Buffalo who were addicted to opioids -- defined as opiates tha
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Contact: Lois Baker
ljbaker@buffalo.edu
University at Buffalo
Source:Eurekalert

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