Most addictions start with abuse and our county is in the midst of a prescription painkiller epidemic. About 45 people die every day from overdose of opioid prescription painkillers such as Vicodin, Lortab, OxyContin, morphine and the list goes on.
The overdose death rate from these painkillers are higher than cocaine and heroin overdoses combined. For about every death related to these pharmaceuticals, 30 more are rushed to the emergency room. Just last March, the United States Attorney General said that the increasing number of deaths from the painkillers is an ‘urgent and growing public health crisis’.
These opioids have gotten into the homes of more people than they ever have. Prescriptions for these painkillers have increased 300 percent in the last decade and is one of the most commonly prescribed drugs in the United States.
The science behind addiction, proves that it is infact a chronic brain disease that causes continuous substance cravings. The dependence on a substance is a complex disease process and the abuser can’t voluntarily stop their use of it.
It’s not that the users lack moral or character, drug addiction occurs throughout all levels of social classes. The damages done to the brain may challenge the persons self control and adhere his or her ability to resist the intense impulses.
Connection between Prescription Drug Addiction and Heroin use
Statistics from the National Institute of Drug Abuse 1 out of 15 people who take opioid prescription painkillers will try heroin within 10 years. A different study took a closer look at adolescents who abused both prescription and injection drugs and found out that 8 out of 10 teenagers used opioid painkillers before trying heroine.
On average, the 8 out of the 10 used heroine after 2 years of abusing the opioids. Stephen Lankenau, an associate professor in the School of Public Health at Drexel University, said “The findings may present a new pattern in drug abuse, before prescription drugs were as commonplace as they are today, the typical trajectory for an injection drug user was to use hard drugs before turning to prescription pain medication”. Lankenau, further noted that these opioid prescription painkillers play a vital factor on the road to becoming a injection drug user.
Within the same research, they interviewed 50 injection drug abusers from the ages of 16-25 that live in either New York or Los Angeles, and abused prescription opioids within the last 3 months. In the interview, they asked the participants questions like “Why did you use it that first time?” and “Where did you get it?”
43 out of the 50, said that they abused the painkillers before using heroine. The participants usually got the pharmaceuticals from friends, family or were prescribed themselves before abusing them.
At first, they orally took the drugs. As time went by, they would crush the painkillers to get a faster and stronger high. Later they turned to cheaper illicit drugs like heroine before injection the opioids.
Rettner, Rachael. “Painkiller Abuse Can Lead to Heroin, Study Reveals” Live Science July 26, 2011 http://www.livescience.com/35793-teen-prescription-drug-abuse-gateway-to-heroin.html [accessed January 20, 2015]
Benson, Jonathan. “Prescription painkillers now gateway drugs to hard drug use” Natural Health News & Self-Reliance August 30, 2010 http://www.naturalnews.com/029606_prescription_opioids_gateway_drugs.html [accessed January 20, 2015]
National Institute on Drug Abuse. The Science of Drug Abuse and Addiction. Infographics. [accessed January 20, 2015] http://www.drugabuse.gov/related-topics/trends-statistics/infographics
“Prescription painkillers: 5 surprising facts. Why you should be concerned about opioids-the most prescribed drug in America” Consumer Reports January 2014 http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/2014/01/5-surprising-things-you-need-to-know-about-prescription-painkillers/index.htm [accessed January 20, 2015]