Are Tougher Restrictions on Rx Opiates Creating a Heroin Epidemic?

Heroin has long been a major target drug in the war on drugs. As a powerful opiate, it is addictive and carries significant risks of overdose. Additionally, because most users take the drug intravenously, it also has risks associated with using dirty needles. The drug itself can degrade the white matter in the brain in the long run. Users build up a tolerance quickly.

Prescription Opiate Medication

Heroin is not the only opiate. There is a large class of prescription drugs that use opiates to treat pain. Due to the powerful concentrations of these medications, users often become addicted, even when their initial use of the drug is legitimate and overseen by a medical professional. Addicts to prescription opiates face similar risks to addicts of heroin, and often go to great lengths in order to secure their drug of choice, such as faking pain to obtain a prescription and stealing pills from other people. Opiate medication abuse appears in the elderly, who often need medication to manage chronic pain.

The prevalence of opiate medication is a growing concern. It tends to ensnare ordinary citizens who were unlucky enough to be prescribed the wrong medication during a time when they had serious chronic or acute pain. The dependence is an extremely negative side effect that has alarmed both the medical and law enforcement communities. Abuse of this medication often begins as unintentional, but can quickly grow to become a full addiction. Both medical organizations and law enforcement have increased the restrictions on opiate medication in recent years.

Prescription Drug Abusers Turning To Heroin

However, remember that heroin and opiate medication are of the same class of drug. Cracking down on abuse of prescription opiates can push people into heroin, because it becomes relatively easier to obtain. Prescription opiates need a doctor to write a prescription for them at some point, whether the addict obtains the pills directly from a doctor or steals them. That means there is always a record of how the opiates made their way out into the world, and it is possible to track their use. Pharmaceutical companies also track where they sell the pills.

Heroin More Dangerous Than Prescription Opiates

Of course, as an illegal drug, heroin is not subject to any oversight. Nobody tracks where it goes or where it comes into the country. While opiates have known ingredients and concentrations, heroin is a black box; nobody can be sure exactly what is in a given batch of heroin unless it is tested in a lab. That makes heroin consumption much more dangerous than the consumption of prescription medication, and laws and regulations that are designed to reduce prescription drug abuse tend to actually increase consumption of heroin, which is harder to track and prevent. The unintended consequences of these laws are significant, and lawmakers need to consider more carefully what happens when they change access to any drug. It is necessary to take into account how people will substitute similar drugs before hastily passing laws.

The abuse of prescription opiates or heroin is costly and takes lives every day. If you have a problem with any type of substance addiction, seek help immediately at an inpatient drug treatment facility. Don’t wait until it’s too late.

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