Prescription Painkillers Could Be Gateway Drugs For Heroin

The death several months ago of the 46 year old actor, Philip Seymour Hoffman of an apparent heroin overdose focused new media attention on the drug. In what will not make pleasant reading for many adults concerned about a loved one’s use of heroin and therefore contemplating the family intervention in Miami with which Family Recovery Specialists can assist, a recent New York Times report has shed light on how heroin addiction has changed.

A particular focus in the February report was the potential for prescription painkillers to serve as ‘gateway’ drugs for heroin. Prescription opiates, more widely available than ever, have even been called “heroin lite” by some doctors on account of how they can whet a long-lasting appetite for the harder equivalent. Much coverage of Hoffman’s death has centered on his reported difficulties in breaking a habit for prescription painkillers, some two decades after he quit heroin.

Like heroin, medications such as oxycodone, OxyContin and Vicodin are opiates, and have helped to shed light on new truths about addiction and the risks for overdose, with implications for both former and current heroin users.

According to a Drexel University sociologist with experience of surveying young addicts, Stephen E. Lankenau, “The old-school user, pre-1990s, mostly used just heroin, and if there was none around, went through withdrawal.” He said Forex that it was now customary for users to “switch back and forth, to pills then back to heroin when it’s available, and back again. The two have become integrated.”

The last 10 years have seen gradually increasing rates of prescription opiate abuse, while in the period since 2007, there has also been a doubling, to 620,000, in the number of people claiming to have used heroin in the last 12 months. Researchers say that these statistics are no accident, with people now tending to experience opiates for the first time at an earlier age, and recovering addicts now having more temptations to resist than was the case 20 years ago.

According to Traci Rieckmann, a researcher into addiction at Oregon Health & Science University, “You can get the pills from so many sources. There’s no paraphernalia, no smell. It’s the perfect drug, for many people.”

For all of doctors’ efforts to only prescribe such drugs conscientiously, and the experience of millions of people of using such drugs safely, some patients can be introduced – or reintroduced – to an opiate high that leads them to seek out the pills illicitly. It is a trend that should concern many people giving thought to family intervention in Miami for a loved one who may presently be abusing either prescription painkillers or harder drugs.

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