Are You an Accidental Addict?

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Are You an Accidental Addict?

Know your risk factors

“About 10 percent of the population has a genetic predisposition to addiction, whether it’s to painkillers, alcohol, or substances like nicotine,” says Russell Portenoy, M.D., chairman of the department of pain medicine and palliative care at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City. “A personal or family history of alcohol or substance abuse suggests that you may be one of these people.” Other risk factors include suffering from a psychiatric condition like depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder, or having experienced past trauma, such as sexual or emotional abuse. 

“If, after discussing your medical history, your doctor feels your risk is elevated,” says Portenoy, “expect that she will prescribe only a few pills at a time, will require frequent office visits, and may want to work in consultation with a pain specialist or addiction counselor.”

Tune in to your body 
For the average person, a painkiller relieves suffering and may cause some side effects, such as drowsiness, constipation, and fuzzy thinking. If it gives you a lift or a sense of control, tell your doctor. Feeling a buzz or a hit of euphoria doesn’t mean you’re definitely on the path to addiction, but it’s a red flag. 

Be watchful, too, if you’re under a lot of stress. “Narcotics should only be used to ease physical symptoms,” says Lerner. If you find you’re using a drug to numb negative emotions or “make it all go away,” your treatment may need to be changed.

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