Opioid Addiction: Know the Risks for You & Your Family

Opioids are used for the management of pain. They work well, but millions across the United States find themselves becoming addicted to the painkillers. You may know them by the name of Percocet or OxyContin.

When a person takes an opioid, the brain receives a rush of dopamine, which is what can hook us. Dopamine fills receptors in the brain called re-uptake vesicles. Excess dopamine can create new receptors that need to be filled; when they aren’t filled with dopamine, you experience a craving.

If you are recovering from a surgery or have been prescribed pain medication as part of your pain management, talk to your doctor about any worries you might have about addiction for you or your family members.

Here are six risk factors for opioid addiction:

History of Substance Abuse

A primary warning sign for addiction is a person’s history of substance abuse. Whether that’s alcohol, drugs, or cigarettes, you may be predisposed to addictive tendencies.

Family History of Addiction

If you have a family history of addiction or substance abuse, it may have left you more susceptible to opioid addiction. Take a close look at your family history if there have been any issues with addiction.

History of Abuse

Having been a victim of trauma, physical abuse, or sexual abuse can leave a person more susceptible to addiction. This is called a psycho-social stressor, and may leave a person more likely to get hooked.

Home Life

Stress at home can lead to a greater likelihood of addiction. Researchers have found that one of the strongest preventive factors in decreasing the likelihood of opioid addiction and opioid abuse is a positive environment at home.

The Big Picture  

Risk factors can be lumped into three categories: biological, environmental, and personality (psychological). So, for example, if you have a family history of addiction, but you are mentally well and have a positive, healthy home life, you may not be at as high of a risk as someone who has a family history of addiction as well as a stressful domestic life and is a former smoker.

If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse, contact your primary care provider to discuss treatment options. Use our online “Find a Doctor” tool to locate a primary care provider near you, or call UP Health System – Marquette at 906.228.9440 to set up an appointment.


John Lehtinen, MD, is the only practicing addiction medicine doctor in the Upper Peninsula. Learn more online here.

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