The risks of drug addiction and abuse don't seem to be the same for everyone.
"It's not the pills alone that make an addiction," says Karen Miotto, MD, an addiction psychiatrist at the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute. She points out that addiction develops from a number of physiological, psychological, genetic, and social factors. A personal history of substance abuse also seems to increase the risk. Mixing drugs also increases the risk of problems. "If you're taking your pain medicine along with other prescription drugs, you ratchet up the risk of addiction enormously," says Miotto.
Lynn Webster MD, medical director at the Lifetree Clinical Research and Pain Clinic in Salt Lake City, says that pain itself is a risk factor: the greater the severity of the pain, the higher the risk of drug abuse and addiction. "After years of living with severe chronic pain, people will do anything to get rid of it."
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