Prescription Drug Abuse Escalating
to Heroin Abuse and Addiction
Within our society, we are witnessing a disturbing pattern in substance use. While we may often see a large number of individuals abusing prescription drugs, either in uncontrolled moderations, or without a prescription at all. But many may wonder as to what happens when one can no longer take these medications, whether they run of pills, or if they cannot purchase anymore. While it would be a hopeful idea to think that these individuals just cease use and move on with their lives; but unfortunately, this isn’t the case. Instead, we are witnessing a transition in individuals who cease using prescription medications and taking of heroin.
Prescription Drugs as a Gateway
A very small portion of drug using populations start their drug experiences with heroin as their first substance. Oftentimes, there is often a progression with people with addictions, as they move from one substance to a more potent one. Many drugs that do not have as potent an effect as other narcotics, but are often used by larger populations are generally known as “Gate-way drugs,” as they generally act as a predecessor for more serious addictions. Most gate-way drugs could be considered alcohol, cigarettes, marijuana and prescription medications with addictive qualities.
Turning to Heroin
Since prescription medications can be considered a stepping stone to more harmful drugs, many users will often escalate their use to heroin for a number of reasons. Many people may seek a potent substance because they developing a tolerance to the effects of their previous drug. For example, individuals who got a euphoric sensation from one pill, might need two just to get a relatively close level of euphoria. Also, people may turn to heroin for reasons of financial sensibility. Since drug dealers can produce levels of heroin for a far less cost than drugs like OxyContin, people may escalate use for that reason. Also, there may be an element of access at play in many cases as well. If an individual used to take pain medications from a prescription (or buying from someone who did), but are no longer able to, heroin would seem to be the next choice.
In a teleconference featured in “Prescription Drug Abusers Turn To Heroin,” Dr. Tom Frieden, the Director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control gave his analysis of this trend in drugs: “We are priming people to addiction to heroin with overuse of prescription opiates, which are, after all, essentially the same chemical with the same impact on the brain.”
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Thoughts for The Future
According to Dr. Frieden, he places a particular measure of blame on the healthcare system for overprescribing opiate pain medications to individuals that would later be at risk of escalating into heroin use. While the FDA is currently in the process of tightening restriction on the distribution of these medications, this only solves one aspect of the problem. As these drugs become scarcer, we may eventually see a sharp increase in heroin use. With the understanding of this potential consequence, people should be well informed about the dangers of heroin use, as well as the availability of assistance for detoxing from pain medications. With these measures in place, we may very well see effective action taken to curb the epidemic of both prescription and heroin abuse and addiction.