Prescription Drug Abuse Can Lead To Heroin Addiction

Most prescription medications to relieve pain are derived from the opium poppy, and they are in a class of drugs called opiates. All drugs in this class have effects on similar receptors in the brain.

These receptors in the brain trigger feelings of euphoria and relieve pain. Heroin is within this class of drugs, and it is derived from the opium poppy. Therefore, it effects on the mind and body is quite similar to prescription pain medications.

Opiate Addiction:

In addition to making them effective for relieving pain, the pharmacological properties of opiates make them highly addictive. Opiates are addictive on a psychological level due to the “high” that they can produce.

However, they also are physically addictive. In some cases, it can be impossible for a person addicted to opiates to detox without medical assistance. Opiates can cause an individual to build a tolerance to the drug, and this can cause them to take the larger dosage of opiates or begin taking stronger opiates.

What Are Some Examples Of Opiate Medications?

  • Codeine
  • Fentanyl
  • Oxycontin
  • Demerol
  • Vicodin
  • Percocet
  • Dilaudid
  • Morphine

How Would Someone Who Is Addicted To Pain Medications Begin Using Heroin?

Social Factors:

While pain medications can be prescribed, they are also sold illegally. People who develop an addiction to pain pills as a result of purchasing them from illicit sources are often quite vulnerable to developing a heroin addiction. In the process of purchasing pain pills illegally, it’s common for people to find themselves in social circles of people who use heroin.

Furthermore, using any prescription drugs illegally may reduce the inhibition to use illicit drugs in general. Therefore, they can act as a gateway drug to heroin.

Errors On The Part Of Doctors Prescribing Pain Medications:

Sometimes, people develop an addiction to pain medications they are prescribed and end up becoming addicted to heroin. Prescriptions can run out before a person is ready to go without the medication. To relieve pain and symptoms of opiate withdrawal, people sometimes begin to look for opiates on the black market. In some cases, this leads to the person turning to heroin.

Psychological Addiction To The Effects Of Opiates:

Heroin causes a stronger effect on the user’s body and psyche compared to most other opiates. It also is often injected, which causes the effects to be even stronger and more dangerous. Unfortunately, individuals who become addicted to prescription opiates often develop cravings for a “stronger high.” In some cases, this leads to the individual suffering from addiction to turn to heroin and become addicted to the drug.

Financial Factors:

On the black market, prescription drugs are more expensive than heroin. If people who are addicted to prescription pain pills aren’t able to afford them, it’s possible they could end up turning to heroin due to its lower price. This is one of the most common reasons why individuals who went from abusing prescription drugs to abusing heroin ended up doing so.

Is It Common For People Addicted To Heroin To Have Initially Become Addicted To Opiates As A Result Of Pain Pills?

It has been estimated that as many as 50% of people who are currently addicted to heroin initially used prescription drugs. This includes both individuals who began using prescription drugs for legitimate purposes and individuals who began purchasing prescription pain medications on the black market.

Has Heroin Abuse Increased As A Result Of Opiate Pain Medications Being Prescribed More Often?

There is evidence that the heroin abuse is on the rise. It is likely that increases in the amount that prescription drugs are prescribed are one reason for the increase in the rates of heroin abuse. Furthermore, doctors performing minor procedures sometimes prescribe their patients more pain medication than they need. This can increase the risk of addiction.

Increases In The Strength Of Drugs That Are Prescribed:

Some of the prescription pain medications that are on the market now are stronger than drugs that were prescribed in the past. This could be behind an increase in the rate of opiate addiction. Fairly recently, a new prescription drug has entered the market. This drug is called Opana.

Opana is so strong that an individual without a tolerance to opiates could suffer an overdose from simply taking two pills of the medication! With such strong opiates, serious physical dependency can begin to set in after only a short time of taking the drug.

Prescription Opiates Are Being Prescribed To Younger And Younger Patients:

Furthermore, opiates are being prescribed more often to younger patients. A powerful opiate, Oxycontin, was recently FDA approved for children as young as 11! This could end up leading to substance abuse problems for some individuals. For some, it could end up being a factor in the development of heroin addiction.