heroin prescription opioids

How Painkiller Addiction Becomes Heroin Addiction

Dr. Norris Von Curl, II, MD

Dr. Norris Von Curl, II, MD

You might be surprised to discover that today’s heroin addict looks different than even a decade ago. When heroin was on the rise in America in the ’60s, most people addicted were lower income, young men. They chose the drug for its affordability and strength. While some of those statistics still ring true, today’s heroin addict is often led to it another way. It’s likely that they come from a more affluent area of town. And it’s very probable they found heroin because they were prescribed painkillers at one point in their lives. According to the NIDA, “Nearly 80 percent of heroin users reported using prescription opioids prior to heroin.”

Opioid Painkiller Substitute

Frist off, painkillers are not the enemy here. When used as prescribed by a medical professional, they can be effective at helping people deal with pain in their lives. However, many of them are highly addictive, and when the abuse begins, the body’s dependence comes quickly with dire results. As has become more common knowledge, the most addictive prescription painkillers are part of a family of drugs called opioids. They are either naturally derived from the poppy plant or synthetically made to create the same effect. But in either case, they have the same results.

Solution to the Problem

Once a person begins to abuse painkillers their dependence becomes intense and the cravings are quickly overwhelming. Patients begin to self-medicate throughout the day and with greater quantities. The problem is that prescriptions run out eventually.

And remember when we said that opiates are derived from (or created to structurally mimic) natural elements of the poppy? Well, heroin is an opioid. It is a semi-synthetic derivative of the poppy. Once a person is addicted to painkillers, and the prescription dries up, the all-too-common next step is to turn to heroin.

Heroin Is More Available

As bad as the opioid crisis is, and as much as there is fault all across the board (including careless prescriptions), at least the pharmaceutical opioids are more regulated than ever before. This is due to the fact that people are overdosing on prescription painkillers at alarming rates. But one of ways states are combatting this is by setting up prescription-monitoring programs. As well, there are concerted efforts to make painkillers difficult to use for recreational purposes. The pills are harder to crush (so people can’t inhale them through the nose) and difficult to dissolve for injection.

On the other side, a major danger of heroin is the fact that there are no rules regarding the distribution. This means that it can be cut with other substances. So users never know exactly what they are getting when they purchase it on the street. This contributes to overdosing and other dangerous aspects of unregulated drugs. Of course, with the right connections, this also means it’s easy to find.

Heroin Is Cheap

It’s also affordable. Because of the many regulations, if a person goes to the street to buy illicit painkillers, they can expect to pay up to and over $50 per pill. That kind of habit will break the bank in no time. On the other hand, the cost of a single dose (0.1 g) of heroin runs 10-20 dollars. That’s a drastic price difference.

One of the reasons prices have dropped for heroin is because of the opportunity. Drug cartels see the opioid crisis and realize they can benefit by making heroin easy to get at a price that is cheaper than prescription pills. So the cycle continues.

From Painkiller to More Pain

Every story is unique. Each person who finds themselves in the grips of addiction has their own history and personal reasons. However, one thing is the same for everyone addicted to opioids: they need help.

It is vastly important is for individuals addicted to heroin to understand that there is hope. That recovery can happen. All they have to do is to reach out and ask for help. Yes, the journey is a challenge. But it is also a joyful one. One where the freedom that is achieved outweighs the doubts and fears and helps people create a future out of the rubble of their lives.

Opioid Addiction Treatment

If you or a loved one are in need of help getting treatment for an opioid addiction, either heroin or painkillers, please call First Steps Recovery today. We are a detox and residential treatment center, and our team is highly experienced with helping people break an opioid addiction.

It doesn’t matter what road brought you to the place where you realized you needed help, the important part is the next step you decide to take from here. Please call one of our addiction specialists today. We are here to answer questions and offer information on all your options. Call now, 1-844-489-0836.

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