Pathways Towards Prescription Drug Abuse: What Researchers Have Discovered

Pathways Towards Prescription Drug Abuse: What Researchers Have Discovered

By: Cumberland Heights

prescription drug abuseThe opioid epidemic has become a national concern as the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports a four-fold increase in opioid-related deaths between the years of 2002 and 2017. When we talk about opioid abuse, it’s mostly centralized around prescription drugs and how friends and family members obtain these from loved ones. There are yet many cases of those who were prescribed these drugs but later developed dependence to them, but the air has been a bit murky as we’ve had trouble identifying direct links to addiction for these individuals. Of course, acute, chronic and emotional distress play a role in opioid dependence, but what exactly led up to that point? Sometimes the best way to find these answers is to speak directly with those who have experienced it.

A 2017 study published in the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment sought to explore these pathways that have led to opioid abuse or dependence by assessing and interviewing 283 adults with opioid dependence. Overall, 121 participants revealed more than one pathway that led them to where they are now.

Three major pathways were identified:

  • Inadequately controlled chronic pain
  • Exposure to opioids during acute pain episodes
  • Chronic pain amongst individuals with prior substance use disorders (SUDs)

This information provides us with a firm groundwork on what we can do to better support those with chronic pain; the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that on the public level, we can educate our communities so that they may better protect themselves and their loved ones from opioid dependence. At the state level, drug monitoring programs have already been set in place to serve as interventions. Healthcare providers have also become more attuned to the needs of their clients, which is where more customized treatment becomes important.


Cumberland Heights is a nonprofit alcohol and drug-addiction treatment center located on the banks of the Cumberland river in Nashville, Tennessee. On a sprawling 177-acre campus, we are made up of 2 12-Step immersion campuses, 12 outpatient recovery centers and 4 sober living homes. We believe that each person has a unique story to tell – and that’s why we always put the patient first.

Call us today at 1-800-646-9998 to take the next step towards your happiness and health.

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