Peer pressure isn’t the only way outside forces contribute to drug use. Subtle influences like a critical family member or a stressful time at work might push someone toward opiate addiction. Others may use opiates in pill form based on recommendations from people who believe they are harmless.
Outside Pressure and Opiate Addiction
Beyond the peer pressure described in a “Just Say No” campaign, there are many reasons a person may abuse opiates. This highly addictive class of drugs includes prescription pain relievers such as OxyContin and Vicodin as well as heroin. Some people begin using opiates with a prescription while others begin using them simply out of curiosity or due to peer pressure. The latest figures from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health show 4.3 million people age 12 or older misuse pain relievers, while 435,000 people use heroin. More people use heroin now than in previous years, and researchers believe it’s due to people switching to the street drug when pain relievers become too expensive or difficult to get.
Scientists don’t know the exact cause of addiction, but research points to a combination of external and internal factors. A genetic predisposition makes up around 40% to 60% of a person’s chance of getting addicted, but outside influences such as family, friends and work/school environments make up the additional risk. A person who grows up in a low-income community with a culture of acceptance toward drugs is at greater risk for trying and becoming addicted. The chances are also high when a person lives in an abusive environment at home, struggles relating to other people or exhibits impulsive behavior. Researchers also point to poor academic performance or trouble fitting in with friends as risk factors.
For teens and young adults, peer pressure is one of the most common reasons for first time drug and alcohol use. This segment of the population is more vulnerable to drug experimentation because they are more likely to take risks and try things out of curiosity. Since young people’s brains are still developing, they are more likely to develop an addiction. Many people begin using opiates after experimenting with other substances, such as alcohol or marijuana. As they meet more people who use drugs, they see more types of drug use and experience greater pressure to try pain relievers or heroin.2
Misinformation and Opiates
Some people who misuse opiates start using them based on inaccurate information. Members of the medical community may prescribe opiates without considering a person’s full medical history or a person may self-medicate with pills because he believes a prescribed medication is safe.
False information about opiates is behind at least some of the current epidemic of opiate overdose deaths. Since 1999, the number of opiate-based prescription pain relievers sold in the United States nearly quadrupled, while at the same time Americans did not report a change in overall pain. During the same period, deaths from these drugs also quadrupled.
Many researchers blame the rise in opiate prescriptions over the past two decades on moves by physicians to treat pain without fully understanding a patient’s individual needs. Furthermore, the rise in overdose deaths due to opiates is also due to a dramatic increase in heroin availability from Mexican drug cartels.
Opiates and the Media
Drug use in the media, including movies, television, music and social media, has a partial impact on consumers, particularly children. Researchers argue over how much it influences any one person, but young people with limited life experience may interpret consequences differently than adults. For example, a focus group that asked young people to comment about the portrayal of an overdose death of a girl at a party produced mixed responses. Many young group participants viewed the death ambivalently because she was doing what other party goers were doing. Adults, on the other hand, were more likely to view the death as a negative consequence.
While opiate use is less common than alcohol use in mainstream media, it is part of many shows. The television show, “House,” portrays both negative and positive consequences for the main character, Dr. Gregory House. Addicted to Vicodin, House struggles with pain and personal relationship struggles while taking the drug. During the show’s on-air run, Vicodin prescriptions rose by 19 million over a five-year period. It’s unclear if the show reflects what’s going on in America or actually contributes to more people taking the drug.
Get Help for Opiate Addiction
Opiate addiction leads to serious health consequences and poor quality of life. If you or someone you know is addicted to opiates, it is important to seek professional treatment. Our admissions coordinators are available 24 hours a day to answer any questions about opiate addiction treatment. Don’t wait to find out more information, call our toll-free number today.
 Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality. (2015). Behavioral health trends in the United States: Results from the 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Retrieved Apr. 27, 2016 from http://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/NSDUH-FRR1-2014/NSDUH-FRR1-2014.pdf.
 National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2014). What is drug addiction? Drugs, Brains, and Behavior: The Science of Addiction. Retrieved Apr. 27, 2016 from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugs-brains-behavior-science-addiction/drug-abuse-addiction.
 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2016). Drug overdose deaths in the United States hit record numbers in 2014. Retrieved Apr. 27, 2016 from http://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/epidemic/index.html.
 Nolan, Dan, Amico, Chris. (2016). How Bad is the Opioid Epidemic? Frontline. Retrieved Apr. 27, 2016 from http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/frontline/article/how-bad-is-the-opioid-epidemic/.
 Roberts, Donald F., Christenson, Peter G. (2000). “Here’s Looking at You, Kid”
Alcohol, Drugs and Tobacco in Entertainment Media. The Kaiser Family Foundation and The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University. Retrieved Apr. 27, 2016 from http://www-personal.umich.edu/~mhammer/CASA%20Report.pdf.
 Daily Mail. (2011). The House effect? TV doctor’s prescription painkiller Vicodin usage at all time high… and ‘kills more people than CRACK.’ Retrieved Apr. 27, 2016 from http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1379181/Alarming-rise-painkiller-use-House-drug-Vicodin-hits-time-high.html.