Half of Heroin Addicts Were Prescription Pill Abusers

A recent study has come out that showed about 45 percent of heroin addicts began their problem with prescription medications, which should really not be that surprising to most people. Heroin has a longer-lasting high and is infinitely cheaper than pills, which is why people have been moving to the heroin from the more safe pharmaceutical products lke Vicodin or Oxycontin. The availability is also becoming more widespread, especially since most states are trying to cut down on the number of opioids being prescribed, and pill mills are being shut down left and right.


This finding is coming from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, where the agency also saw heroin overdoses quadruple in the last 10 years. Around 8.000 people are now dying every year as a result of heroin use and abuse. There is another statistic out there that is separate from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention data, which showed heroin use double among people ages 18 to 25, with people from all socioeconomic backgrounds turning to the drug for relief. A huge problem stems from the prescribing of opiate-based painkillers, since a lot of people end up becoming addicted to the pills and abusing them. After you abuse painkillers for a certain length of time, you end up not getting the rush and same high as you did in the beginning, which then leads you to seek out more harder substances. There is also the issue that once you become addicted to the pills, you have to keep using something in order to stop withdrawal, which can be pretty uncomfortable and serious. For a pill addict, it can get really expensive to buy pills from the streets, such as when you run out of your real prescription for the drug, and then you have to track more of them down through other means. Instead of spending hundreds or thousands of dollars every month getting more pills, people have decided it is a lot cheaper to spend $100 to $200 a week getting enough heroin to last a week.

Within the past year, the number of prescriptions for opiate painkillers have tripled, with 259 million being written in 2012, and it has climbed from there. The doctors are all aware of the problem going on and they are still writing prescriptions to people, even those they know are addicted or going through a program to try to get clean. A poll from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found out that 85 percent of doctors think opiate-based painkillers are being overused, but the ironic thing is that it is their own peers that are allowing it to happen. States are stepping in now to try to stop this flow of pain medication, such as in New Jersey where doctors have to discuss the risk of addiction before writing out a prescription to a patient. The issue with this is that people can lie, and say they don’t have an addictive past or that there isn’t alcoholism or addiction in their families, which is one of the precursors for addiction. Other states have put software into the computers that alerts the doctors and pharmacists if prescriptions have been filled for the same drug, and it shows them when that was, which can help cut down the number of people doctor shopping looking for the pills.

The issue is really that heroin is becoming the drug of choice for many, especially the people who are on a more fixed income and cannot afford the expense of pills every month. When you look at the heroin though it is also becoming a problem as heroin has been cut with Fentanyl, another very addictive opioid which is used for cancer and end of life patients, and cutting heroin with the Fentanyl is causing a lot more overdoses than just the heroin by itself. Most dealers do not tell their clients they cut the drug with Fentanyl, and since Fentanyl is about 80 times more potent than morphine, and is essentially the most potent opioid for people, it is causing an alarming number of people to overdose on their first hit of heroin. You also have the issue of people using needles to shoot up heroin, which then causes HIV and Hepatitis C, and this is what is going on in rural Indiana right now, and has lead to several hundred people coming down with HIV this year. What the biggest issue is when you think about it, it is that heroin is so cheap, and it can be snorted, smoked, or injected, so there are a lot of different ways to administer this drug, and that makes it appealing to even more people. There are also many types of heroin, such as black tar or powder, all with varied purity levels, and so when someone gets this drug, they do not know how strong it really is until they do it, and this is what leads to death.

This study should really not surprise anyone as far as half of all heroin addicts coming from the pill addiction circle, since most people gradually increase their drug use and the types of drugs they use over time. Another part of this is that if you run in the pill circles, someone you know is either selling or doing heroin, so it basically makes it that much easier to have a connection to get it, and it also increases the chances you will be asked to try it at some point or another. If you look at safety, it is much safer to have a pill addiction than a heroin addiction, because at least with pills, you know what you are getting, and with heroin you just are playing a game of Russian Roulette every time you use it. If you or someone you know has a pill addiction or heroin addiction, intensive in-patient rehab is the only way to truly have a chance of kicking the problem, because opiate addiction is one of the strongest addictions out there, and there is only a 1 in 10 chance of successful recovery.

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Jeanne Rose
Jeanne Rose lives in Cincinnati, Ohio, and has been a freelance writer since 2010. She took Allied Health in vocational school where she earned her CNA/PCA, and worked in a hospital for 3 years. Jeanne enjoys writing about science, health, politics, business, and other topics as well.