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Opioid addiction now more likely to originate from use of painkillers than from heroin

More people progress to opioid addiction from use of prescribed painkillers than from heroin use, a new study suggests.

Canadian researchers studied 503 patients from 13 methadone clinics in Ontario, Canada, who were being treated for opioid dependence disorder. They found that 52% of women and 38% of men reported that doctor-prescribed painkillers, such as morphine and codeine, were their first contact with opioid drugs.

Treatment programmes need to adapt to the changing profile of opioid addiction

Picture credit: iStock

The study also found that the women were more likely have to physical and psychological health problems, while the men were more likely to be in employment and smoke cannabis.

Compared with study results from the 1990s, there was a 30% increase in the number of patients becoming addicted to opioids through prescribed pain killers, usually for chronic pain management, while injecting drug use had dropped by 60%, the authors said. The average age of patients being treated for opioid dependence had also increased, from 25

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Canadian researchers studied 503 patients from 13 methadone clinics in Ontario, Canada, who were being treated for opioid dependence disorder. They found that 52% of women and 38% of men reported that doctor-prescribed painkillers, such as morphine and codeine, were their first contact with opioid drugs.

Treatment programmes ‘need to adapt to the changing profile of opioid addiction’

Picture credit: iStock

The study also found that the women were more likely have to physical and psychological health problems, while the men were more likely to be in employment and smoke cannabis.

Compared with study results from the 1990s, there was a 30% increase in the number of patients becoming addicted to opioids through prescribed pain killers, usually for chronic pain management, while injecting drug use had dropped by 60%, the authors said. The average age of patients being treated for opioid dependence had also increased, from 25 to 38 years.

Lead study author Monica Bawor said treatment is still geared towards a patient profile that is ‘decades out of date’ – predominantly young men who inject heroin and have few family or employment responsibilities. ‘Treatment programmes need to adapt to the changing profile of opioid addiction,’ she said.

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