Addiction | The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse

Addiction

Why is America Addicted to Opioid Pain Relievers?

Opioid medications, sometimes known as pain relievers, are the most widely prescribed class of drugs worldwide. While the United States represents about five percent of the world’s population, it consumes 80 percent of the global opioid supply. Not surprisingly, the U.S. is also suffering from the most severe opioid addiction and overdose crisis it has ever experienced. But, this didn’t happen overnight. Several factors contributed to the unprecedented use – and misuse – of opioids in this country.

Understanding the Difference between Physical Dependence and Addiction

In a recent hearing before Congress, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Scott Gottlieb spoke about the devastating impact of the opioid epidemic and what his agency is doing to address it. While Dr. Gottlieb is not the first to note the massive scale of this crisis, he did bring up one often-overlooked component of its much-needed solution – distinguishing between an opioid addiction and a physical dependence on opioids. Although frequently conflated, differentiating between these two conditions is essential to break the stigma associated with what has proven to be the most effective form of opioid addiction treatment: medication-assisted treatment (MAT) – a treatment approach that combines the use of medications such as methadone and buprenorphine with behavioral counseling.

Alcohol: America’s #1 Addiction Problem

More than 2 million Americans are addicted to opioids, ranging from the illegal drugs heroin and fentanyl to the prescription medications OxyContin and Vicodin, yet eight times as many people misuse or are addicted to a substance that is more widely available and easier to access. This substance is alcohol. Despite the fact that it has largely retreated from public consciousness in the context of the current opioid epidemic, research shows that rates of alcohol misuse and addiction are on the rise.

Drug Use Disorder vs. Drug Misuse - What is the Difference?

In 2016, approximately 2.1 million Americans over the age of 11 suffered from addiction to opioids such as the prescription pain medications OxyContin and Vicodin or the illegal drug heroin. Yet, 11.8 million people – nearly six times as many – reported misusing opioids, primarily prescription medications.

Although it does not receive the same media attention as addiction – clinically known as opioid use disorder - this startling figure highlights a serious yet often overlooked problem within our society: the issue of opioid misuse.

Jan Copeland, PhD, Discusses Cannabis Policy

Dr. Copeland, founding director of the National Cannabis Prevention and Information Centre at University of New South Wales Australia, spoke during our Addiction Speaker Series about the rise and fall of Australia’s cannabis policy responses. We interviewed Dr. Copeland to get some deeper insights into her research and experience regarding cannabis (or marijuana) use and the prevention and treatment of cannabis use disorder.

A Family Therapist Weighs In: What to Say if You Discover Your Child is Using Drugs

Parents who know or suspect their child is using drugs or alcohol are often at a loss for what to do next. Do you take a hard-lined punitive approach? Confront your child? Approach your child as you would a friend?

Molly Bobek, a Senior Research Associate here at The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) and a licensed therapist who specializes in family therapy, provides some suggestions for what parents can do when it comes to this difficult situation and explains her approach to helping families concerned about their teen’s substance use. 

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