Health Care Providers in North Carolina have decried the high rate of abuse of prescription pain medication in the State. A recently released report showed Methamphetamine as the preferred drug of choice among addicts in the State of North Carolina. This substance is highly abused in the counties of Sutter, Yuba and Butte. However, officials observe that there is a gradual shift from over-dependence on Methamphetamine to opiates.
According to statistics, the number of heroin users across the US has increased by more than 150 percent between 2007 and 2013. Further, the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention notes that most of the new heroin addicts abused prescription opiates at some point in their lives before graduating to heroin use and abuse.
Local health care providers operating in North Carolina have concluded that prescription pain medication abuse often leads to heroin use. They have linked prescribed opiates such as Opana, Oxycontin and Vicodin with pain prescription abuse which later leads addicts to heroin use when they can no longer afford or find more pills. These opiates are classified as gateway drugs because their overuse and abuse often converts their dependents into heroin users.
The high cost of prescription pain medication has been tied to the shift witnessed in drug choice and use in the State. Apparently, prescribed pain medication is more expensive and more difficult to access than hard drugs such as heroin. For example, Oxycontin retails at $10-$20 per tablet while heroin retails at the same price for about a tenth of a gram and it lasts longer than Oxycontin. Accordingly, there has been a steady increase in black heroin availability on the streets.
Addiction to opiates has been observed to grow rapidly as the user’s body develops physical tolerance to the medication. Opiate addiction does not discriminate on the basis of age; both young and elderly users can develop an addiction to the drug with much ease. As the body becomes more tolerant to the medication, their users have to up their dosage so that they can maintain the “feel good” feeling. This becomes expensive to them because it means that they now have to buy more pills to quench their addiction. Accordingly, these opiate addicts find it easier to substitute the expensive opiates with heroin which is relatively cheaper and more readily accessible and packs a powerful punch.
In order to fight heroin addiction in the State, the administration must institute measures that will effectively restrict over-prescribing of opiates. These measures need to be developed and adopted urgently so as to reduce the number of heroin-related deaths and medical emergencies. The high number of heroin-related deaths can only be dealt with by restricting the availability of the gateway drugs.
The shocking statistics released by CDC shows that heroin overdoses have doubled between 2011 and 2013 and almost quadrupled between 2002 and 2013. Joint efforts need to be adopted to reduce the number of young adults who are affected by heroin addiction. Good news for addicts in North Carolina as rehabilitation centers have been opened to offer outpatient, residential and intensive treatment programs to addicts and help them fight the addiction.