The drug scene is like most things in this fast-paced world we live in, it's always rapidly changing. The partakers are always searching for the next great high, to elevate their escape. Prescription medications are the last thing most people would think of as a gateway drug, but the painkiller's design seems to lead to a slew of unforeseen heroin addictions. Powerful prescription opioids have very similar qualities to heroin, making the transition to this drug an easy option.
Prescription painkillers have been popular for years, and at the height of its epidemic became just as much of an issue for medical professionals as it did for law enforcement. I witnessed some of the epidemic playout firsthand from my small hometown in Florida, which was one of the hardest hit states. From 2003 to 2009, the prescription overdose death toll increased by 61%. As a result lawmakers saw a need to re-evaluate regulations in an effort to reduce inappropriate prescribing. The new laws were implemented in 2010 and pain clinics were expected to be in full compliance by 2011. Continued failure to comply led to eventual raids, seizures, arrests, and closures of many clinics.
The main reason that people abuse prescription drugs is because they are often more powerful and safer than average street drugs. Marijuana is a prime example of this. Homegrown plants or those that were grown naturally are not as potent as high-end strains that have been chemically enhanced in labs by industry professionals. The same can be said for more powerful and addictive opioid based drugs, but stiff crackdowns making them harder to attain forced some abusers to make the switch to illicit drugs that are cheaper and easier to purchase on the streets.
Efforts are still being made to combat prescription drug abuse. The most recent initiative is to require digital prescriptions for painkillers.
Heroin has become the preferred substitute for painkiller abusers, even though it can be significantly more dangerous and present more health hazards. Here are some cold hard facts:
The United States only makes up 4% of the world's population, yet consume 80% of the oxycodone, and 99% of the hydrocodone.
Heroin is a tolerance based drug, so the more you use, the more of it you’ll need to produce a gratifying high.
The average user age starts around 23.
Nearly 80% of heroin users reported abusing prescription painkillers.
Withdrawals make addictions extremely difficult to kick the habit.
The 200% increase in drug overdoses involving opioids since 2000 is proof that there is a real problem that deserves the maximum attention in the U.S. The more steps we take toward better regulating the prescribing of prescription opioids the closer we will get to ending the epidemic. Once we gain control, the broader issue becomes getting those already addicted treated and back on track to leading normal lives.