5 Reasons Prescription Addiction Turns to Heroin

prescription drugs to heroin use

With recent news and national surveys indicating that more and more prescription addicts are turning to heroin, we looked into the 5 main reasons why this is happening. Here is what we found:

1. Heroin Is a Prescription Drug

Heroin is itself a prescription drug that was more widely used around the turn of the 19th century. When used for prescription purposes, it is referred to as diamorphine. It has recently been studied by researchers in the Netherlands who were looking for a way to more effectively treat heroin addicts. The routine treatment for heroin addiction in the mainline medical community has been to give the person methadone, which is actually a synthetic opioid very similar to heroin. The Dutch researchers were investigating to determine whether treatment might be more effective if the patients were given a limited dosage of heroin in addition to the methadone, and they felt that the answer was “Yes.”

2. Heroin Is a Good Substitute for Prescription Painkillers

The most common prescription painkillers on the market, including hydrocodone (Vicodin) and oxycodone (OxyContin, Percocet), are actually opioid drugs, just like heroin. All of these drugs are derived from opium. One of the major derivatives of opium is morphine, from which heroin is derived, whereas the pharmaceutical painkillers are derived from the other major element, known as codeine. Heroin has similar effects to painkillers in terms of the high that users experience, making it an ideal substitute for those looking for a way to replace their painkillers.

3. Heroin Is Cheaper than Pain Pills

Once a person gets hooked on painkillers, he or she is tied into an enormously expensive habit. At anywhere from $60 to $100 per pill, a painkiller addiction is enough to throw one on hard times financially, especially considering that an addict will normally require several doses per day. Heroin is not cheap, but it is significantly less expensive than painkillers. A single dose of heroin usually costs around $10, depending on the city where it is purchased.

4. Heroin Is Easier to Find

someone buying heroin

Prescription painkillers are so widely abused throughout the United States that overdose on pain meds now kills more Americans than both heroin and cocaine combined. With so many people suffering from addiction to these powerful medications, state legislatures, law enforcement, and medical regulatory agencies are taking measures to crack down and prevent the drugs from being abused or falling into the wrong hands. One example is the implementation of statewide prescription monitoring programs which keep track of how many painkiller prescriptions that doctors write. This makes it harder for unscrupulous physicians to operate as “pill mills,” selling prescriptions to people who want to get high. The drugs are now significant far more difficult to come by, whereas heroin can easily be found both in the city and the suburbs, provided that one has the right connections.

5. Heroin Is Easier to Use

People who abuse painkillers do not simply swallow the pills. After all, pain pills are designed not to get a patient high, but to provide an extended low dosage for the management of pain. To get high on Vicodin or OxyContin, it is necessary to crush the pill up into a powder so that it can be snorted or injected in a dissolved solution. To fight back against painkiller abuse, many of the pharmaceutical drug companies have begun formulating their pills in ways that make them harder to crush. The new version of Oxycontin, for example, cannot easily be ground to a fine powder but instead breaks up into chunks. Even if an addict is successful in dissolving the pill in water, it will not be a solution that can be injected. Instead, the solution comes out as a stringy and sticky goop. Heroin, on the other hand, is delivered as a fine powder that is ready for use as soon as the person gets his or her hands on it. For these reasons, heroin abuse rates are on the increase following the massive explosion in the numbers of prescriptions written for painkillers over the past several years.