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Opioid Crisis: Does Painkiller Use Run in Families?  

A study released by JAMA Internal Medicine last week revealed a connection between painkiller use and exposure to painkiller use from other family members in the home. The findings showed that one person’s exposure to painkiller use by a family member might increase the likelihood personal use.

With so many Americans misusing painkillers, this news proves a powerful point—that many families are facing painkiller addiction together. While not every individual becomes addicted, the presence of painkillers in the home is to be taken into careful consideration with this information in mind.

Those observed in the study were found to be at greater risk for opioid use when exposed to someone in the same home who had already been prescribed opioids. This was done in comparison to those individuals in a household that took NSAIDs (over the counter drugs such as Ibuprofen).

For those exposed to opioid use, the risk of personal use within one year was 0.71 percent higher than those who were not exposed. Over twelve million people exposed to opioids were involved in the study, while over six million people exposed to NSAID use were involved.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 2 million Americans abused or were dependent on prescription opioids as of 2014. Those numbers, although not officially available, have certainly increased since then. JAMA estimates that at least 246 million prescriptions for opioids were written in 2015.

Overdose deaths from opioids have quadrupled since 1999.

Family Connections

The study does not reveal the reasons why opioid prescriptions may run in families, although medical professionals believe that the addictive nature of opioids can be a danger in the home. The more common opioid use becomes, the more likely a prescription is to be found in the typical family’s medicine cabinet.

Educating families on the risks of painkiller abuse and misuse is paramount. No family is immune to the risks—and no family is immune to the possibility of addiction.

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