Opioids in the home may raise health risk for family members

In a new study, researchers found that when one person at home uses opioids, it can double the chances someone else living there will seek out the addictive drugs, too.

The research was conducted by a team from UC Berkeley.

The team examined hundreds of millions of medical claims and roughly 14 million opioid prescriptions created between 2010 and 2015.

They found that the chances that a person gets a prescription for opioids climb between 19% and 100% when a relative living in the same household already uses the drugs, depending on circumstances.

There are huge effects on the likelihood that family members who are influenced by other family members will start using opioids.

The findings suggest ways opioid addiction, which killed 47,000 Americans in 2017, can spread in the family.

Family members can observe the effects the painkiller has on loved ones and maybe tempted by excess pills sitting in the family medicine cabinet.

That exposure to opioids may also cause people to ask their doctors for specific drugs by name.

The team says physicians are not only influencing each other directly when it comes to opioid prescriptions. They’re influencing each other by steering patient demand

The conclusion that family behavior plays a role in spreading the use of opioids suggests ways doctors, researchers, and policymakers can address the spread of the drugs, the team suggests.

This could include alerting doctors if a patient’s family members already use opioids or paying people to safely dispose of excess drugs that may be sitting in home medicine cabinets.

The lead author of the study is Mathijs de Vaan, an assistant professor at the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley.

The study is published in the American Sociological Review.

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