Prescription opioid drugs and heroin have very similar physiological effects. Although, the risk factor is entirely different and heroin is often laced with the unknown and sometimes lethal ingredient. The reason we see many patients turning to heroin from prescription drugs is due to the cost and availability. Federal agencies are beginning to tighten restrictions on prescription pills, and health and law officials warn that this could increase heroin use.
Prescription pain pills can be “safer” because patients know exactly what they’re taking. Since opiate dependent patients can get prescriptions for the pills, it’s deemed as “okay” because it’s not an illegal drug, per se, and heroin has such a bad connotation. But the problem with heroin is that it varies from batch to batch in potency and purity. Because heroin is less reliable, less stable, and more deadly. Also, heroin and other intravenous drugs can cause infectious diseases like HIV and hepatitis due to the sharing of needles.
Of the people who tried heroin between 2008 and 2010, more than eighty percent had previously abused prescription drugs, according to a study done by the Federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
Many people who have initially experienced chronic, acute, or traumatic pain have been prescribed prescription medication to manage their pain. Eventually, some may become addicted to painkillers like Vicodin, OxyCodone, or Percocet. When these drugs become unavailable, people are beginning to turn to heroin. This is how an initially valid prescription for pain management has turned into heroin addiction.
Fayetteville, North Carolina’s Fayetteville Observer, has this to say about prescription drug and heroin use: “Detective Sheila Valdez, the city’s prescription drug crime detective, said 2012 was the city’s worst year for painkiller abuse. The painkiller epidemic has been holding steady this year, she said, ‘and the reason it hasn’t gone up is that of heroin.’”
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