Is Heroin Abuse Replacing Prescription Drug Abuse?

Friday, February 22nd, 2013

Prescription drug abuse has soared in recent years with the flood of opioid pain medications into pharmacies and onto the street. For many opioid addicts, medications are their first exposure to addictive opioids, and plenty never go on to use heroin. However, recent efforts by authorities and drug manufacturers are discouraging prescription drug use and prompting many addicts to go for heroin instead. Below is more information about the rising popularity of heroin compared to prescription pills in America.

The Rise of Prescription Drug Abuse

Opioid pain medications are prescribed to patients of all ages, and some level of dependency can develop even over short-term use. While not all patients continue to seek these drugs after their prescription runs out, some do and find plenty more pills on the street. The growing demand for pills, especially those based on oxycodone, has prompted many chronic pain patients to sell their pills for huge profits on the black market. Some doctors have even been caught handing out illegitimate prescriptions for the drugs or inadvertently over prescribing these prescription drugs.

Why Heroin Is Replacing Pills

The growing controversy over prescription drug abuse has prompted manufacturers to begin reformulating their drugs and resulted in the creation of harsher new laws on possession. Many new pills can’t be snorted or injected easily, causing many addicts to seek out an alternative that gives them the strong buzz they prefer. Remember that addiction is not solved through reducing supply, it is only solved by reducing demand and helping those already addicted to get help. Available throughout North America by way of Mexico and South America, heroin is cheaper than pills and easy to snort or inject right out of the bag. Unfortunately because the pills are harder to get, we’ve seen a huge increase in the number of people addicted to heroin.

New Problems Associated with Heroin Abuse

Changes in prescribing laws and drug formulations have definitely put a dent in prescription drug abuse, but these actions have no effect on those already addicted. Street drugs, including heroin, are less controlled and vary widely in terms of potency and purity. While addicts could easily gauge their dose with pills, heroin’s purity is virtually never known, and this contributes to the high rate of overdose and other complications seen with the drug.

Users who switch to heroin also have to deal with the criminal underworld on the street, which many previously avoided by using only prescription drugs. Many suburban teenagers who entered the world of prescription drug abuse after a broken leg or wisdom tooth extraction have switched to heroin. With dealers increasingly targeting the suburban market, these young addicts rarely need to go far to get a fix.

While drug reformulations and new laws might make addiction more unpleasant, it is hardly enough to put a stop to the phenomenon. Finding the root of each addiction is key to ending it. A multi-pronged approach that includes education, community support and addiction treatment is most likely to be successful in this case.