Americans are increasingly addicted to prescription pain killers and that addiction is leading to a resurgence of heroin use in this nation because the drug can kill pain and is cheaper than legal medications like Oxycontin.
That’s what law enforcement officers who deal with the growth in illegal drug use say and the increase in the use of heroin is not just in cities but in rural America, including Floyd County.
Prescription pain killers like Vicodin, Oxycontin and oxydodone are opiates.
So is heroin.
And right now, heroin is cheaper.
Abuse of prescription pain killers is reaching epidemic proportions in America.
Young people often get addicted to prescription opiates when they are given the drugs to battle pain on injuries. When the prescriptions run out, those addicted to pain killers turn to illegal sources for the drugs and in the illegal world, an Oxycontin pill can cost $100. For about the same cost, an addict can obtain about five “hits” of heroin.
Dr. Jason Jerry, an addiction specialist at Cleveland Clinics Alcohol and Drug Recovery Center, told the New York Times last month that addiction begins with use of prescription pain killers.
“Often it’s a legitimate prescription, but next thing they know, there’s obtaining the pills illicitly,” he told the paper. Dr. Jerry says half of the heroin addicts that visit his clinic every month started out on prescription opiates.
“People eventuall say, ‘Why am I paying $1 per milligram for oy when for a tenth of the price I can get an equivalent dose of heroin?’ ”
In Floyd County, where both production and use of the highly-addictive crystal methamphetamine is an epidemic, the sale and use of heroin is also on the rise and drug cases that clog Circuit Court every week often involve the illegal sale and use of prescription drugs.
Use of a prescription opiate like Vicodin or Oxycontin is also a danger to recovering heroin addicts, even those who have been clean for decades.
Actor Phillip Seymour Hoffman, for example, was clean and sober for more than 20 years when he became addicted to prescription pain killers and checked himself into rehab to try and kick the habit. It didn’t work and Hoffman died of a heroin overdose on February 2.