Opiates encompass a wide class of both legal and illegal drugs. Nonetheless, opiate drug effects remain the same regardless of whether the drug comes from the streets or from the pharmacy. Prescription pain relief medications and heroin both fall within the opiate class of drugs and, as of 2014, remain the fastest growing addictions in the United States.
While addiction to opiates in any form entails a wide range of health risks, switching from prescription pain medications to heroin still casts users in a “bad to worse” scenario. Until necessary drug treatment services become as easily accessible as heroin, heroin addicts will continue to walk a fine line between life and death.
Prescription Pain Pill Abuse
According to the U. S. National Library of Medicine, an estimated nine percent of the U. S. population abuse prescription pain pills, such as Percocet and Oxycontin on a regular basis. The ongoing misuse of prescription opiates leaves users open to physical dependency and eventual addiction.
For well over a decade, physicians have regularly prescribed pain pill medications in adherence to aggressive pain management practices. This trend has placed people susceptible to addiction behaviors at considerable risk.
From Prescription Drugs to Heroin
According to the University of San Francisco Health News, a large number of today’s heroin addicts believe their opiate addiction began with prescription pain medications. Considering the bold similarities between heroin and prescription pain relievers, it’s really no surprise to see legal drugs pave the way for widespread heroin abuse.
Both heroin and prescription pain medications target produce the same brain chemical effects. The feelings of euphoria and calm produced by pain meds are no different than heroin’s effects.
Increased Access to Heroin
Surprisingly, the heroin epidemic of today makes the heroin craze of the 1970s and ‘80s pale in comparison. Heroin transports have branched off into formerly untapped regions throughout the country. Both rural and suburban areas have gained easy access to incoming heroin shipments, expanding the heroin user base on an exponential scale.
Likewise, wealthier, more affluent people with easy access to medical care have become prime candidates for heroin use as prescription pain pills become less accessible and more costly.
Increased Heroin Abuse Rates
According to the Illinois Consortium on Drug Policy, emergency department visits continued to see an increase in heroin-related admissions between the years 2008 and 2010. Increases during this time grew by 12 percent with the largest number of patients falling within the 21 to 29 year old age range.
Within the state of Maryland, heroin overdose deaths have increased by 41 percent, while prescription pain pill-related deaths saw a 15 percent decrease in number. An increase in heroin abuse rates are also evident within the state of Washington as the number of criminal suspects testing positive for heroin increased by 167 percent between the years 2007 and 2012.
The Need for Drug Treatment Services
Without needed treatment help, heroin and prescription drug addicts alike will only sink deeper and deeper into the hole that addiction digs. While prescription drugs are manufactured according to certain known dosage formulas, heroin dosage and potency properties can vary from one batch to another.
According to Reuters, the seemingly natural crossover from prescription pain medications to heroin will only fuel today’s heroin epidemic. In the coming years, the need for drug treatment services will easily outpace any available treatment options.