Abuse of prescription opiates, such as the powerful painkillers oxycodone, hydrocodone and fentanyl, fueled a surge in overdose deaths. The deaths from opiate painkillers quadrupled from 4,030 deaths in 1999 to 16,917 deaths in 2011. The numbers are based on overdose deaths data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2012, the latest year that statistics are available, deaths from prescription painkillers dropped 5% to 16,007, according to CDC data made public on October 15th by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. Deaths from all categories of prescription drugs dropped 3%, the data shows.
Although this looks like a move in the right direction and keeping in mind that these statistics are over 2 years old, they may be showing you only one side of the story. For many prescription painkiller addicts, the life of an addict begins to take a toll financially. The most common transition for opiate addicts is the transition from painkillers to heroin. What usually starts out as a recreational way to get high from pills quickly consumes the addicts life. Pills become the only thing that they care and think about. Pills turn very good people into shadows of themselves and many turn to crime as a means to help them pay for their expensive habit.
Prescription painkiller addiction can become very expensive quickly. The user will develop a tolerance to their drugs and will need more and more of it to feel a high. Eventually the amount needed to gain the necessary high becomes too expensive and they can no longer afford it. They either turn to crime to fund their addiction or they make the switch to the much cheaper and more dangerous heroin. Many addicts will do whatever it takes to not use heroin. They can rationalize their addiction as long as they are not putting a needle in their arm. But the truth of the matter is the price of the drugs becomes too much. Those that stay with pills will begin to steal which usually ends up with criminal charges. Others will turn to the heroin.
As prescription painkiller overdose figures begin to decline, we are starting to see heroin usage soar. One of the major problems with heroin is that you never know the potency of the drug. It has no quality control and no standards to follow like prescription painkillers do. An addict always knows what they are getting when taking pills. Heroin however, is usually cut (mixed) with other substances to maximize the profits for the dealers. In some cases, it is cut with fentanyl which is a very strong opiate that is over 90 times the strength of morphine. When an addict who is used to using the same amount on a daily basis is given a strong bag of heroin, that is all it takes for them to overdose. That is why the heroin overdose numbers are so high. The amount of competition on the street between dealers is creating a stronger product and it is taking a toll on the lives of the addicts.