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Is There a Connection Between Heroin Addiction and Rx Drugs?

Connection Between Heroin Addiction and Rx Opioids

Pharmaceutical companies began the aggressive marketing of opioids for pain relief in the 1990s.  Since then, thousands of people are treated for opioid misuse every day. To date, about 218,000 people have died from opioid-related overdoses.  However, we also need to look at the number of heroin deaths and overdoses as well.  It’s possible that many heroin users started out using or abusing prescription painkillers.  Some of them switched to heroin because it is cheaper and easier to obtain.  So, how prevalent is the connection between heroin addiction and Rx opioids?

Studies show that 8 out of 10 people who use heroin abused prescription painkillers first, according to NIDA.  Another study shows that Oxycontin abusers are 19 times more likely to switch to heroin.  

Why Would Someone Switch from Opioids to Heroin?

People switch from opioids to heroin for a number of reasons.  The most obvious reason has to do with the fact that Rx painkillers are tracked.  The tracking system (PDMP) makes it difficult to obtain the large amounts of painkillers an addict requires.  Furthermore, opioid manufacturers have designed pills that are harder to crush, making them more expensive.  

In many cases, the connection between heroin addiction and Rx opioids is a result of costs. For instance, on the streets, a prescription painkiller sells for $30 to $80 per pill, compared to $10 for a bag for heroin.  

Dangers of Heroin Compared to Rx Opioids

Both drugs are highly addictive and produce a range of dangerous side effects.  In fact, heroin is also an opioid.  The main difference is that prescription drugs are manufactured in a controlled environment with strict safety precautions in place.  

When someone purchases Rx opioids, they know what they’re getting.  On the other hand, heroin production is not controlled and it is often laced with other dangerous chemicals.  When buying heroin from a street dealer, a person never knows for sure what they’re getting. 

Today, the most widely used substance for cutting heroin is Fentanyl.  This drug is 30 to 50 times more potent than heroin and is one of the most popular and most deadly chemicals found in heroin today.  Other substances include acetaminophen, quinine, rat poison, cocaine, meth, paracetamol, phenolphthalein, laundry detergent, caffeine, sugar, flour, and more. 

Heroin was involved in more than 14,996 fatal overdoses in the United States last year.  For that reason, it’s important to know the warning signs of a heroin overdose.

Warning Signs of Heroin Overdose

It’s not unusual for substance abusers to combine alcohol, marijuana, or other drugs to enhance the effects of heroin.  Consequently, the chances of overdose increase significantly.  These are some of the warning signs of overdose to be aware of if you know someone who engages in heroin use:

  • Drowsiness
  • Dry mouth
  • Disorientation
  • Small pupils
  • Weak pulse
  • Shallow breathing
  • Low blood pressure
  • Unresponsiveness
  • Coma

If you suspect an overdose, get medical help right away.  Be prepared to provide information regarding the substances involved and how much was ingested.

Other Victims of the Connection Between Heroin Addiction and Rx Opioids

We know that non-medical use of prescription painkillers can lead to addiction and ultimately to heroin abuse.  But, legitimate painkiller use can also have the same result.  Millions of people use prescription opioids daily.  In fact, in 2018, more than 500,000 people on Medicare received opioids for pain. The drugs are for short-term use, but they are addictive.  A person can develop a dependency or addiction even when using the drugs as prescribed.  

Those individuals are often senior citizens who are on fixed incomes.  As the prices of these drugs continue to increase, they can’t afford the medications but are still in need of pain relief.  Many of them resort to buying heroin because it’s more affordable and offers the same painkilling properties.  

Get Help for Heroin or Rx Painkiller Addiction Today

Are you struggling with heroin or painkiller abuse and want to stop?  If so, contact Awakenings Rehabilitation today.  We understand the connection between heroin addiction and Rx opioids and are equipped to treat all aspects of any addiction.  

Sources:

drugabuse.gov – Prescription Opioids and Heroin

drugabuse.gov – The Connection Between Pain Medications and Heroin

drugfree.org – Heroin Use Rises as Prescription Painkillers Become Harder to Abuse

cdc.gov – Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs (PDMPs)

ncbi.nlm.nih.gov – Characteristics and Consequences of Heroin Use Among Older Adults in the United States

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