High Cost of Prescription Drug Abuse Leads to Heroin Use

Opioid painkillers are expensive, they are tougher to get and new formulations have made them more difficult to abuse. That combination is driving down prescription drug abuse, which is really good news. The not-so-good news is that drug abusers are simply turning to a cheaper, more available drug that is easy to abuse – heroin.

Stories along the Eastern seaboard and farther inland are emerging of inner-city drug dealers willing to make deliveries to suburbanites. Just text an order, they’ll deliver. These dealers are even reportedly offering specials to entice new customers. Buy-three-get-one-free advertising has worked its way into illegal drug sales.

Popular opioids like OxyContin and Vicodin shot up in price to anywhere from $60 per pill to $100 each. By contrast, buyers can obtain a bag (or balloon) of heroin, good for several doses, for as little as $10. Heroin costs a fraction of the price of prescription drugs, sometimes as low as one-tenth of the price.

Middle- and upper-income customers were once addicted to prescription drugs. Thanks to efforts on the part of law enforcement, the medical community and pharmaceutical companies, the supply line of prescription painkillers is being choked. The supply is down and costs are up. In desperation, opioid addicts are welcoming illegal street drugs and dealers into the neighborhoods of Middle America. National drug use reports say that 90 percent of teenage heroin users are not inner city blacks or Latinos, but suburban whites.

Abuse of street drugs also carries an inherent danger. Prescription painkillers are not safe to abuse, but at least everyone was sure what was in the pill. Street drugs are much more questionable. Ingredients and dosages can vary from batch to batch.

The switch from opioids to heroin is not so surprising. When opioid abuse began, it was first uncovered in rural states like Kentucky and West Virginia. It quickly took on the name “hillbilly heroin.” When hillbilly heroin became too expensive and too tough to get, street heroin was a predictable fallback.

Evidence of the rise in heroin use is being seen in cities all across the country. Emergency room visits, admissions to drug rehab facilities and arrest records all point to the increase. These records also show that abusers are coming from upscale parts of town. As the number of people abusing heroin rises, so does the number of overdose deaths.

Comments are closed.

The Pain of Addiction

Vicodin addiction often starts innocently enough. Most people start taking Vicodin or other pain medications after surgery or an injury. But then they can’t stop. They need more to get the same pain relief. They start doctor shopping to get more pills. And the cycle continues until it takes over their lives.