For decades we have been taught that marijuana is the gateway drug. That smoking pot will lead you to trying harder and more dangerous drugs. Though I am not an advocate, a promoter or even a user of marijuana, I do not believe it is as dangerous as the experts originally believed it was 50 years ago. Marijuana is now being used for medical purposes and is even legal in Colorado and Washington for recreational use. The fear of marijuana is starting to dissipate and I believe that our society needs to take a long hard look at the real gateway drugs: prescription painkillers.
Prescription painkillers are legal pharmaceuticals that when taken as prescribed, help people who suffer from chronic pain. The issue in the United States and around the world is the over-prescribing of these medications. Many people are addicted to opiates and take them when not medically necessary. The abuse of opiates has also created a huge black market for the painkillers. A high percentage of prescription painkiller abuse starts in the home. A large majority of the homes in the United States have painkillers in their medicine cabinet. The pills could be from dental work, a pulled or strained muscle, or any other legit medical reason to be prescribed painkillers. It is in your own bathroom that someone may take your medications. It could be a friend or a family member which is why it's important to always have your prescription pain medications locked up or disposed of when no longer needed.
Prescription painkillers are being seen as the real gateway drug. Many painkiller addicts start taking the medications for recreational use or medical use and do not see a real danger in it. They may continue after the pain is gone, or double up their dosage because they enjoy the way it makes them feel. Many users do not believe they will get addicted to them. Speaking from experience, I had no idea what was happening to me the first time I went through withdrawals from Oxycodone. It was alarming to hear from a friend that I was addicted to the pills but the fear of addiction did not scare me at that point. I continued using, and my addiction spiraled out of control. Luckily I never made the switch to heroin. If I did make the switch to heroin, I don't think things would have ended well.
My point is that for many addicts, painkillers will lead to heroin. It is as plain and simple as that. People who never in their life would think of touching heroin are now dying from it. They become addicted to the painkillers and when they can no longer afford more they make the switch to heroin. It is becoming far too common to hear people who have lost everything because of their addiction. They were very successful, made a lot of money, had a wife, kids, white picket fence and it is all gone. What started as a painkiller addiction left them hooked on heroin. Our government needs to put a real emphasis on the dangers of prescription pills and to teach our children what the real gateway drug is.