The rise in prescription drug abuse has created an unexpected trend, a rise in the use of the opioid drug heroin. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), 1 in 15 people who abuse prescription pain relievers will try heroin within ten years.
According to the NIDA, in 2010 about 1 in 20 or 12 million people used prescription pain medication when it was not prescribed for them. A report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reveals “that people aged 12 to 49 who had used prescription pain relievers nonmedically were 19 times more likely to have initiated heroin use recently than others in that age group. The report also shows that four out of five recent heroin initiates (79.5 percent) had previously used prescription pain relievers nonmedically.” As prescription drug abuse increases, the number of people who will attempt and become addicted to heroin is expected to dramatically rise in the near future.
Cheaper and Easier
Many young people who are abusing prescription drugs are switching to heroin due to the cost. Prescription drugs are expensive costing between $5 to $50 per pill depending on the type, while heroin can cost as little as $10 per balloon and can be easier to buy. Newsweek reports that there has been a shift is the demography of those who are using heroin, “Heroin addicts these days are more likely than ever before to be rich, white and suburban . . . that shift is likely attributable to the unanswerable demand for one of medicine’s greatest—and most controversial—discoveries: prescription opioids.” As restrictions have been passed to make prescription opioids more difficult to obtain, many who are already addicted are turning to heroin. Rafel Lemaitre of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy says, “It’s hard to talk about the heroin problem without talking about the prescription drug problem.”
Prescription drug abuse in and of itself is an alarming trend and researchers are now pursuing alternative drugs with less addictive qualities, such as meloxicam, in an effort to reduce abuse, addiction, and overdose-related deaths. However, as those who are addicted to prescription drugs seek a cheaper and more accessible high through heroin, it is becoming an increasingly dangerous situation and risks exposing young people with little to no knowledge of dangerous drugs to a precarious future of addiction and possibly death.