Prescription Drugs to Heroin

We’ve all heard of “gateway drugs,” or those narcotics which society perceives to be less harmful, which often prompt the user to venture into more addicting substances. Aside from being perceived as less harmful, gateway drugs also tend to be more widely available, making it easy for new drug users to experiment with them. What most people don’t know is that some gateway substances have a rather fast conversion rate when it comes to turning users onto other, harsher drugs. One such category of substances includes the plethora of prescription drugs now available, and changing from prescription drugs to heroin. In fact, illegal access to prescription drugs is one of the main factors leading to a surge in heroin use and addiction.

Pharmaceutical Drugs: Prescription Drugs to Heroin

Prescription drugs have the inaccurate reputation for being “safe.” This misconception is fueled by the mistaken belief that an FDA-approved substance is incapable of being addictive or abused. Furthermore, many people are unable to fathom how a drug provided by a physician can actually have a negative impact on human health. Those who are familiar with the manner in which prescription drugs can be abused often use such substances due to the social stigma associated with street drugs. This type of user may maintain the misguided belief that pharmaceutical drug use is legal, or at the least, more socially acceptable. Yet, contemporary statistics prove that this train of thought is way more damaging than one could ever suspect. Although prescription drugs are subjected to quality control measures and scientific studies before becoming available to the public, there remains a danger lurking within. Many of the active ingredients in pharmaceuticals are the same as those found in common illegal drugs. Various studies have shown that when a prescription drug abuser no longer has access to their source, they will seek out a similar substance on the street, which is where the spark to switch from prescription drugs to heroin can begin.

From The Medicine Cabinet to the Street

This phenomenon (of converting from prescription to street drugs) is gaining much ground in the area of heroin use. This is due to the fact that prescription pills, such as OxyContin, contain very addictive painkilling opiates which mirror those found in heroin. When those who normally consume OxyContin on a regular basis are unable to feed the addiction with pills, heroin acts as an easily obtainable substitute.

The Dangers of Heroin

For many, the road from pharmaceuticals (like OxyContin) to heroin is a one-way street. Heroin is well known as an extremely addictive drug, both physically and mentally. A single “hit” of heroin is usually enough to create a long-term addiction. For most users, it is practically impossible to stop the cravings for more heroin once the substance has been introduced into the body. An addiction to heroin is also easier to maintain than an addiction to prescription pills. Most who turn to heroin find that it is more convenient to use because of its easy availability and cheap price. Prescription drugs, on the other hand, need to be sourced from someone with access to the drug. A user who relies on a family member or friend with a valid prescription, or a dealer who obtains a supply through illicit means, usually cannot obtain the drug at will. However, almost anyone can go to a local red light district to find a heroin dealer on the corner. This makes heroin a very attractive choice to former pill abusers because it allows for self-reliant drug use.

From Pills to Needles

The resurgence in heroin use can be largely attributed to the rise in opioid users who became addicted to prescription drugs. The federal government’s Substance Abuse Administration found that the number of heroin users has practically doubled, from 373,000 in 2007, to 669,000 in 2012. Heroin overdose deaths also rose sharply from 16,849 in 2009 to 38,329 in 2010.

What Does a Heroin Addict Look Like?

Today’s heroin users are also not your typical drug addicts. They tend to be white, middle to upper class, and residents of suburban areas. A 2010 study even found that over 90% of new heroin addicts were Caucasian. This trend supports the idea that those who are seeking out heroin are being introduced to opioids in a non-traditional manner. While heroin addiction was once initiated through casual drug use in the inner cities, it is now sparked by the opiate addicted suburbanites who were supplied with their first high through their health care provider. One study estimates that over 60% of those who became addicted to heroin in the last five years previously suffered from a prescription pill addiction.

While Prescription Drug Abuse Can Be Deadly, Heroin Use is a Sure Bet

It is totally possible to overdose on prescription drugs, but heroin is far more deadly. As with any street drug, the concentration of the narcotic element varies from source to source. The strong physical cravings also make it difficult for users to control the frequency of use. Overdosing on heroin is very easy to do, as supported by the above statistics.

Prescription Drugs to Heroin

The clear solution to cutting back the heroin crisis is to attack heroin addiction before it begins. This means getting help at the first site of an opioid addiction. Yet, if you or a family member have already ventured down the heroin route, options are still available.

How Inpatient Treatment Can Help

Inpatient treatment is highly successful in combating substance abuse issues of all kind, even the deadly switch from prescription drugs to heroin. Group sessions with those undergoing a similar experience is a great motivator when it comes to conquering addiction. Inpatient centers also offer individual sessions to address the particular needs of a specific patient. The structured environment and living assistance (i.e. with meals and medical care) help one to focus on getting better. Overall, the continuity of treatment offered in the inpatient setting truly helps patients to remain on the path to recovery.

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