Why Heroin Addiction is Rising While Other Drug Addiction is Declining

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Public health experts have a lot to be proud of when it comes to drug addiction. The rates of addiction to almost every drug have fallen dramatically since 2002. According to a 2012 report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), illicit drug use rates have fallen or leveled off.

In a great sign of victory, young people have lower drug use rates than in previous years. But heroin use is following the exact opposite trend. Heroin use rates are dramatically increasing even as use of other drugs is declining. Here’s why heroin is on the rise and how heroin addiction treatment can help to change it.

Common Links Between Heroin and Prescription Drug Use

Prescription opiate use is linked to the rise in heroin addiction. Most people become addicted to opiate medication by accident after getting a prescription for legitimate medical purposes. But not everyone develops an opiate addiction after taking the medications for pain relief. Some people use opiate medications such as hydrocodone or oxycodone for recreational purposes.

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The SAMHSA report shows that prescription painkillers often serve as a gateway drug for heroin use. But the profile of typical heroin or non-medical painkiller users is different than the image that many people expect from drug addicts. According to the SAMHSA report, rates of painkiller addiction is slightly declining, while the rates of heroin addiction are increasing.

The average age of first use of non-medical prescription opiates and first use of heroin is similar, around age 23. According to the Centers for Disease Control, addiction to heroin and prescription opiate medications go hand in hand.

Why Prescription Opiate Users Move on to Heroin

Heroin Addiction

Most heroin addicts started out abusing opiate drugs.

Prescription opiate medications such as Norco and Oxycontin are not as easy to get as they once were. Doctors are following new guidelines that limit such prescriptions. Whether people start using these drugs following a major surgery or are doing so for non-medical, recreational purposes, the supply tends to be limited. Because the drugs are so addictive, it doesn’t take long to build a high tolerance and require a larger dose to get the same high.

Many addicts turn to illegal doctor shopping to try to get more prescriptions, but this method is difficult and offers little success. Some even turn to more desperate and shocking acts such as robbing pharmacies. But it doesn’t take long for most prescription opiate addicts to figure out that heroin provides a more reliable supply. Heroin is not only more accessible than prescription opiates but tends to be cheaper as well.

Why Heroin is Riskier than Prescription Opiate Medication

There’s no question that prescription opiates like Oxycontin are dangerous and addictive, particularly if they’re taken with other substances that depress the respiratory system such as alcohol or Xanax. But even though prescription opiates are dangerous in themselves, heroin is much more so.

People who move on from prescription opiates to heroin usually don’t have experience with intravenous drug use. This method of drug administration is much riskier. IV drug administration presents the risk of introducing air bubbles into the veins, which can be fatal.

The quality of heroin supply is not regulated as well as prescription medication is, which makes it more likely to get a bad batch. Heroin can be mixed with dangerous drugs such as fentanyl, which is more likely to cause a fatal overdose. The purity in batches of heroin can significantly vary as well. If a user gets a batch that is much purer than what their body is accustomed to, a fatal overdose is also much more likely.

Heroin has always been around in our society, but it’s troubling news that it’s on the increase again. Fortunately, heroin addiction treatment can help people live healthier, addiction-free lives. Call the experts today at (800) 407-7195.

the Take-Away

An addiction to opiate painkillers becomes expensive and nearly impossible to feed, which is the primary reason addicts turn to heroin use.