Many people who use heroin began their addiction with prescription opioids. Often, an individual begins taking a prescription painkiller as prescribed, begins abusing their prescription, and eventually turns to illicit opioids because they are cheaper or they are no longer able to get their prescription. Addiction is a slippery slope and the progressions from prescription opioids to heroin use is not uncommon. Addiction can develop when an individual begins taking prescription painkillers. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “Physical dependence can happen with the chronic use of many drugs—including many prescription drugs, even if taken as instructed.” The body quickly adapts to the influx of psychoactive substances and the brain begins to change. A person will develop tolerance, followed by physical dependence and addiction. In order to stave off withdrawal symptoms, an individual may turn to stronger and cheaper illicit opioids. The chemical structure of opioid painkillers like oxycontin is highly similar to illicit opiates like heroin, and they bind to the same receptors in the brain. Sanjay Gupta, in a 2016 CNN Health article entitled Unintended Consequences: Why Painkiller Addicts Turn to Heroin, explains, “It is precisely because there are so many similarities that pain pill addicts frequently turn to heroin when pills are no longer available to them.” Heroin is much cheaper than prescription opioids, and in an act of desperation, a person who can no longer afford their medications may turn to illicit drugs. Prescription opioid addiction has become a major problem in recent years. According to Nora D. Volkow, in a 2014 Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control presentation, “Deaths related to prescription opioids began rising in the early part of the 21st century. By 2002, death certificates listed opioid analgesic poisoning as a cause of death more commonly than heroin or cocaine.” More than 40 percent of opioid overdose death in 2016 involved a prescription opioid, and more than 46 people die everyday from prescription opioid overdoses, according to the CDC. Prescription opioid use is a major predictor of heroin use. In the 1960’s, most people entering into treatment began their addiction with heroin. By the 2000s, however, 75 percent of people entering into treatment for opioid addiction began by using prescription drugs. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “Examining national-level general population heroin data (including those in and not in treatment), nearly 80 percent of heroin users reported using prescription opioids prior to heroin.” Addiction to prescription opioids, if left untreated, has a very high chance of becoming addiction to illicit opiates such as heroin.
Your life doesn’t have to be held back the chains of addiction. You can make the courageous decision to embark upon the rewarding journey of recovery by reaching out for help now. Oceanfront Recovery, a licensed Substance Abuse Disorder and Dual-Diagnosis Treatment Center in the heart of beautiful Laguna Beach, offers individualized care in one of the premier beachfront recovery communities in the world. For information about individualized treatment options, please call today: (877) 279-1777