Prescription painkillers and heroin make the headline news when someone famous dies from an overdose. We see them talked about for weeks afterwards and then added to a list of celebrities that were taken too soon. This is well and good for newspapers and magazine sales, but what about the non-famous people? What about the millions of Americans who are suffering from addiction and those who lost their lives due to their addiction? Many states had record high overdose rates including New Jersey and Rhode Island. The amount of overdose deaths are increasing across the country.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the amount of drug overdoses in the United States has more than tripled since 1990. The majority of deaths are connected to prescription painkillers. Popular names of these drugs are Percocet, Vicodin, Morphine, Oxycontin, Roxicodone, Dailudid and Demerol. All of these drugs when abused, can be lethal in a single dose. In 2008, over 14,800 Americans died from a prescription painkiller overdoses.
It is no surprise that prescription painkillers ruin entire families. When prescription opiates are abused, users can easily become addicted. Opiate tolerance also grows very rapidly. As your tolerance increases, you need more pills to satisfy the high you crave. Once you have become addicted to the pills and run out, it's common to face opiate withdrawal symptoms. Not wanting to face the withdrawals, users continue to take more and more to fight off the withdrawals. This is when opiate use is no longer enjoyable and becomes a chore. Not wanting to go through opiate withdrawal, the addict needs pills to just feel "normal".
After a while, tolerance builds until the user has an addiction that they can no longer afford. Pill prices began to rise on the street when state governments crack down on different ways to users obtain the drugs (such as doctor shopping oe pill mills). When an opiate addict can no longer afford their pills many users turn to an even more dangerous drug called heroin. Heroin is very cheap at the present moment with some cities reporting individual bags being sold for as little as $5. This is a nightmare for law enforcement and family members of addicts. Heroin is more dangerous than pills because with pills, the abuser knows exactly how potent their drug is. With heroin the potency can greatly change from one batch or even from bag to bag.
Data now shows that prescription painkillers are a major gateway to heroin addiction and abuse. According to the Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, 80 percent of heroin users reportedly started off by abusing prescription painkillers. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “Prescription opioid pain medications such as OxyContin and Vicodin can have effects similar to heroin when taken in doses or in ways other than prescribed, and they are currently among the most commonly abused drugs in the United States.”
Prescription painkillers are taking lives of our neighbors, friends and family. The epidemic is leading thousands of abusers who thought they were innocently using painkillers for fun, into hardcore heroin addicts within months. These drugs latch onto you and take everything you ever worked for and the dreams you once had. Do not abuse prescription painkillers as it will not have a good outcome.