Is There a Relationship Between Oxycontin and Heroin Use?

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For many years, OxyContin has stood alone as King in the world of prescription drug abuse. More individuals were abusing OxyContin than any other prescription medicine. In a response to this abuse, the medical engineers behind OxyContin revamped the formula so that it was abuse resistant. The result was dramatic. In just the course of a little less than two years, the pill went from being abused by 36 percent of prescription drug abusers to dropping down and being misused by only 13 percent of abusers. This is according to information that was provided by the New England Journal of Medicine.

Opiate Use That Serves As a Gateway for Heroin Addiction
At first glance, this would appear to be a positive development. However, studies showed that these individuals did not just quit abusing drugs altogether. Instead, they shifted their drug of choice from OxyContin to other opiates. Figuring high on the list of drugs that they switched to was heroin. Discussing this phenomenon, the New England Journal of Medicine showed in a survey that of all of those surveyed, the percentage of individuals who said that they used OxyContin to get high fell from 47 percent of the entire group all the way down to 30 percent. In the same period of that survey, the amount of individuals who said that they used heroin to get high nearly doubled.

A New Drug with Similar Results
In 2006, according to information published in USA Today, an opiate called Opana was introduced to the market. Since it did not have the same abuse restrictions that the new formula for OxyContin did, people began to abuse it in the same way that they did OxyContin. Then a few months after its introduction, Opana was introduced with an abusive restricted formula. The result was that people once again returned to heroin. Commenting on how heroin use and OxyContin use seem intertwined, an author associated with the New England Journal of Medicine survey mentioned at the outset stated that former OxyContin users no longer used it in order to get high. Their drug of choice is now heroin. Why? Heroine is less expensive and easier to acquire than prescription drugs like OxyContin.

The Importance of Understanding How Addiction Works
This shift from one opiate to another is not really surprising for individuals who have an understanding of how addiction works. Simply cutting off the supply of one drug will not make drug abusers quit abusing drugs altogether. This has to do with the fact that human addiction to drugs is not solely a physical thing. There are emotional and mental factors that come into play. People who feel that they are unable to control their emotions use drugs as a way to manage dysfunctional feelings and dysfunctional emotions. The dysfunctional coping methods that are associated with addiction do not simply disappear because an individual no longer has access to a particular drug. All they are going to do is look for another drug that is going to give them the same effect. So, the basic idea is that the problem is not the availability of the drug, in this case OxyContin, but instead the need that the individual has for it.

This underscores the importance of treating not only the physical aspects of addiction, but also treating the mental and emotional sides of addiction. A person might go through the physical withdrawal and detox process. However, if whatever led them to begin taking and abusing drugs in the first place is not dealt with, the likelihood that they will have a relapse is very high.

Where to Go for Help
If you or someone you love is currently battling an addiction to OxyContin, or if there addiction to OxyContin has led them to heroin use, know that the situation is not beyond control. There are trained professionals who understand not only the physical but also the mental and emotional challenges associated with opiate addiction. Contact us today and let us use our years of experience to help you get on the road to recovery.