While many are learning of the troubling rise in heroin abuse throughout the United States, many believe that it does not affect them. They may never have used heroin let alone seen it or known of someone who sold it. However, what most do not realize is that the abuse of prescription painkillers is just as troubling as the abuse of heroin is because painkillers are just as addictive.

Safe Usage of Prescription Painkillers

Prescription painkillers come in a variety of different combinations and brand names. Some of the most familiar include Oxycodone, Hydrocodone, Percocet, Vicodin, and Tramadol. When taken for the correct length of time and in the correct dose as prescribed by a qualified physician, these drugs can be safe to take. They may cause some minor side effects, such as constipation, drowsiness and decreased respirations, but they can usually be stopped without many withdrawal symptoms.

However, individuals who take more of the prescription drugs than they should or who use a drug that was prescribed for someone else are at risk of becoming dependent on or addicted to the painkiller. Because prescription painkillers attach to the same receptors in the brain as heroin does, it is just as addictive as opiates.

The Dangers of “Gateway Drugs”

One of the most dangerous aspects of prescription painkillers is that they are often seen as gateway drugs. While not many people who take prescription painkillers go on to take heroin, 50 percent of the people are now addicted to heroin started with prescription painkillers. The reasons for this are manifold but can often be traced back to the fact that heroin is relatively cheap and easy to come by when compared with prescription drugs. For example, one painkiller may cost $80 on the street while a dose of heroin may only cost $10.

[su_note note_color=”#F0F0F0″]Drug abuse and addiction statistics are both startling and saddening. Drug abuse has led to myriads of unintentional deaths; in fact, the number of unintentional deaths from prescription opioids increased fourfold between 1999 and 2010. Without proper drug rehab, this number will only grow and leave myriads of families mourning the loss of loved ones who died before their time.[/su_note]

Dr. Matney and First Step Recovery Center in Victorville, California, can help those who are addicted to painkillers or illicit drugs and can meet with family members or friends who are concerned about an individual’s use of drugs.