As opiate addiction grows to epidemic proportions, young adults are the largest demographic of abusers. According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, young adults (ages 18-25) are by far the largest abusers of prescription medications. In 2010 over 3,000 young adults died from prescription drugs (mostly from opiate overdoses) which was a 250% increase from 1999. More young adults died from prescription drugs than any other drug, including cocaine and heroin combined. This alone should be a huge red flag.
For every death due to prescription drug overdoses (among young adults 18-25), there were 17 treatment admissions and 66 emergency room visits. That equates to approximately 51,000 treatment admissions and 200,000 emergency room visits due to prescription drug abuse per year. These numbers are very alarming, but what is more alarming is that law enforcement and healthcare establishments say it is much worse now than it was in 2010 and the problem is growing at an alarming rate. The popularity and availability of prescription pain killers is growing rapidly.
Many young adults who abuse prescription medications do so to get high and enjoy the euphoric feeling that opiates cause. The overwhelming majority of them do not realize the potential dangers involved. They simply enjoy the feeling that the pain killers give them, and want to repeat that feeling again. Before they know it, they are using more and more opiates to obtain the same feeling. This is how addiction is born.
I'm often asked how long does it take to become addicted to opiates. This varies from person to person depending on age, weight, metabolism, as well as the amount used. Many young adults will use opiates for a while until they run out. When they start feeling sick, many are not sure why. Depending on their use, opiate withdrawal can kick in pretty quickly and can be very uncomfortable. The user may be curious as to why they are suddenly feeling sick with flu like symptoms until they do some research and realize what they are feeling is withdrawal symptoms. Being unable to cope with the withdrawal, many users take more opiates to make themselves feel better which just continues the vicious cycle of addiction. Many long term users of opiates do not use to get high, but to feel "normal".
It is very easy to get hooked on prescription pain killers. The first time they use, most people think they have found the secret to happiness. It doesn't take many pills to get high at first and this keeps the price per use very low. Beginning users never realize that their tolerance will grow rapidly the more they use. They figure that this is a cheap and easy way to feel amazing without thinking about the repercussions. Many are surprised at how fast their tolerance builds up, and how quickly their life can fall apart all because of their addiction to opiates.