Heroin abuse has increased 63% over the last 10 years in the United States, and its increase has been made worse by the growing abuse of opioids such as oxycodone (Percocet), hydrocodone (Vicodin), codeine.
45% of Americans are addicted to heroin, BUT that same 45% is also addicted to prescription opioids. People tend to move on to street drugs after they have lost access to their prescription drugs. It is a progression of addiction.
To combat both the heroin and prescription opioid epidemic the Obama administration announced a new program to curb access to both. The program will target illegal trafficking of the drugs in areas that have been hardest hit such as Appalachia, New York, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Washington D.C. and Baltimore.
How The Opiate Epidemic Started
Before they even start taking street drugs, many prescription drug addicts first try to get their drugs through pharmacies and that may have even started as legitimate reason for being prescribed (wisdom teeth pulled, car accident, back injury etc.) Easy access to prescription opioids is largely behind the heroin use, researchers say.
The Appeal of Prescription Drugs
Prescription drugs appeal to addicts in a way that street drugs don’t. If someone becomes addicted they can get a drugs from an authority figure, it is safe, without risk of arrest, they can use insurance, and it is legal.
Both prescription opioid and heroin addiction and growing significantly among the affluent and people with private insurance, two groups that historically have had relatively low rates of abuse, the CDC Vital report says. People in these groups tend to move on to heroin only after being cut off from prescription opioids.
Most states these days have a prescription drug-monitoring database that allows doctors and pharmacists to see if an individual is going to multiple doctors or pharmacies seeking prescriptions. Pharmacists and physicians are also trained to spot drug-seeking behaviors.
Drug Abusers Don’t Start as Addicts
People who become addicted to prescription drugs also are not intending to use them for recreational purposes when they start off. Most people start off getting a prescription for a legitimate reason and then they find themselves with a full-blown addiction and need to get more.
This is a concern because it puts every day people at a risk of getting addicted when they have minor procedures or have an accident where prescription pain pills are needed. This doesn’t happen every time, but prescription opioids are inherently addictive when taken over longer periods of time. And once that happens trying to quit throws the individual into horrible withdrawals they weren’t expecting.
Leading them to believe they need more of the drug in order to feel better and they are right. This is the beginning of an addiction which could eventually turn them down the road towards heroin use, once cut off from their legal high; becoming a statistic and a part of the 63%.