Painkiller abuse that began with a medically justified need for prescription opioids has played a significant role in the widespread increase of substance addictions. The opioid epidemic in the U.S. continues to rage, and that has many legislators striving to clamp down on prescription opioids. Yet many people turn to these powerful drugs for legitimate medical reasons and are legally prescribed opioids.

Because prescription opioids are sanctioned for use by the medical community, friends and family often wonder how midlife professionals and others who have never had a substance abuse problem are developing addictions.

Keeping It All Together

Today, many professionals in the white-collar world are experiencing an addiction to prescription opioids while still trying to manage their careers and personal lives. Some people can manage this situation for months—occasionally years.

While an otherwise-normal professional who is experiencing addiction may be considered to be functioning, “functioning” is a bit of a misnomer because it belies the reality of the situation at hand. The ability to meet responsibilities, maintain work performance and sustain relationships while concealing an addiction is often temporary. In time, the individual will face serious consequences to their health, career and relationships as a result of their prescription opioid abuse.

Prescription Opioid Addiction: How Does It Happen?

Many professionals who find themselves addicted to prescription opioid painkillers have never had a problem with substance abuse before.

Prescription opioids are prescribed for pain—usually intense pain that occurs as a result of a surgery or physical health condition. A surgeon or physician will prescribe these medications to patients who rely on them to alleviate temporary pain from a surgery or medical procedure or to manage a chronic pain condition.

Prescription opioids are highly addictive, but upon initial use, most people don’t sense this; they simply experience pain relief. As days or weeks go by, the person may become more vulnerable to developing tolerance and dependence if they begin to take their medication slightly sooner than what is called for. Perhaps they increase their dose slightly because the prescribed dose isn’t controlling their pain. Slight deviations from prescribed dosing schedules like this can lead a person to ultimately develop an addiction to prescription opioids.

Other Factors Affecting Opioid Addiction

The opioid addiction epidemic appears to have many factors. Critics point to physicians who have over-prescribed these drugs to individuals or who have failed to effectively monitor their patients who are taking these incredibly addictive medications.

Until recently, there have not been many effective legislative measures that prevent people from illegally acquiring opioids, such as through doctor shopping in order to increase their access to these medications. Some critics say that the long-term failure to address these problems has helped lead to the opioid addiction crisis.

Professionals who have developed a prescription opioid use disorder are suffering, and many are suffering as they struggle to go about their work day, tend to their families and nurture their relationships. By seeking help through a high-quality addiction treatment center, professionals and others who find themselves addicted to opioids can learn how to manage this serious health issue.