The problems of prescription drug abuse and heroin addiction, both of which have acquired an epidemic proportion across the United States, are considered closely linked to each other. However, a new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine claims that heroin addiction is rare among the abusers of opioid-based painkillers.
The researchers say that only a small share of people who abuse prescription painkillers take to heroin. And, though the two kinds of abuse are different, both need a similar line of treatment. According to a report on upi.com, the researchers found that heroin users are 3.9 times more likely to report non-medical use of opioids in the previous year, and 2.9 more times as likely to meet criteria for abuse or dependence on the drugs as people who don’t use heroin.
“The transition from prescription drug abuse to heroin is a strong risk, the researchers wrote, however, it appears to be part of the drug use progression of a subgroup of nonmedical prescription drug users, not the overwhelming majority,” the report says.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data released in 2015, heroin use rose 63 percent between 2002 and 2013, while heroin overdose-related deaths almost became four times during the same period. Over 8,200 people died of heroin overdose in 2013, claimed national surveys published in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
In 2013, an increase of 150 percent was observed from 2007, with an estimated 517,000 people reporting that they had used heroin in the last year or had a heroin-related dependence.
However, a CDC report goes against the recent study, where it says that those addicted to prescription opioid painkillers have 40 times higher chance to be addicted to heroin.
Prescription drug abuse
President Barack Obama, in his eighth and final State of the Union address on January 12, reiterated that dealing with the burning issue of prescription drug and heroin abuse was one of his priorities. The reassurance comes months before the United States holds the presidential elections in November 2016.
Nearly 60 percent of Americans — the highest ever — were taking prescription drugs, said a report by the Washington Post in 2015. According to the New York Times, Americans accounted for 99 percent of the world’s hydrocodone (Vicodin) consumption, 80 percent of the world’s oxycodone consumption, and 65 percent of the world’s hydromorphone consumption in 2015.
However, prescription drug abuse is the biggest concern today. Recreational use of prescription drugs is a grave problem. Prescription drug abuse can be more harmful than the abuse of illegally manufactured drugs. The high potency of some of the manmade drugs increases the danger and its overdose can at times be fatal. Some of the prescription drugs that are abused are depressants, opioids and morphine derivatives, stimulants and antidepressants.
According to a 2015 CDC report, prescription painkiller overdose deaths in the U.S. reached a record level in 2014 registering an annual increase of 14 percent. Opioids contributed 61 percent of the 47,055 total drug overdoses in the U.S. in 2014. According to a report published in 2015 in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), in 2014 there was a 9 percent increase in the overdose deaths from prescribed opioids compared to 2013, a 26 percent hike in heroin deaths and an 80 percent jump in the deaths from synthetic opioids other than methadone.
To lead a drug-free life, all you need is your strength, will and support from experts. If you or your loved one is struggling with prescription drug abuse, contact the Prescription Drug Abuse Helpline anytime at 866-450-1557.