From Painkillers to Heroin: Why this Path is Common

Homeless person

Every day in the United States, over 115 people die from opioid overdose. In fact, opioids were blamed for the sharp increase in accidental deaths in 2016. We are facing an opioid crisis, and many people can’t help but wonder what led us here. The path, surprisingly, is an easy one.

How Opioid Addictions Form

Research shows that the misuse of prescription pain medication can be a gateway to harder drugs. In one study, 85 percent of teens said they abused opioids like Vicodin and OxyContin before trying heroin. On average, teens abused prescription painkillers for two years before progressing to harder substances. The opioids generally came from the medicine cabinets of friends and family.

It’s also possible for people to become dependent on opioids they were prescribed. Some individuals need painkillers following a surgery or injury. However, taking opioids for an extended period of time raises the risk for addiction.

It’s easy to understand how a person might grow dependent on habit-forming opioids. But, how does a person go from using pain pills prescribed by a doctor to heroin?

Why People Progress to Heroin

Once a person uses opioids for an extended period of time, they can grow tolerant. This means that they need more of the drug to feel the same effects. Prescription painkillers are expensive and difficult to obtain, especially in excess. A cheaper and more powerful alternative is heroin.

Because prescription pain pills and heroin are both opioids, they produce similar effects. This is part of the reason why they are linked. According to The Conversation, an 80 mg pill of OxyContin can cost between $60 and $100 on the street. Heroin costs around $40 to $60 for multiple doses.

No one uses prescription opioids to become addicted. Unfortunately, opioids are highly addictive when misused. Once a person is dependent, they will do things they normally wouldn’t do to support their habit.

What is Being Done

Things are being done to combat the overdose crisis. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is focusing on these priorities:

  • Improving access to treatment and recovery services

  • Encouraging the use of overdose-reversing drugs

  • Educating communities on the opioid epidemic

  • Providing more support for research on pain and addiction

  • Advancing pain management practices

  • Developing new medications and technologies to treat chronic pain

To fight the opioid crisis, we need both education and compassion. The River Source delivers inpatient and outpatient treatment for individuals with opioid addictions. Call us today and discover our effective, reasonably priced treatment programs.