How using painkillers can lead to heroin addiction

People addicted to heroin usually develop the addiction by starting with another drug — a gateway drug — that leads to using heroin.

One type of heroin gateway drug, the prescription painkiller, has gained attention because it is easily available legally.

When someone is injured or undergoes surgery, painkillers are a normal part of the recovery process. Without them, some pain would be unbearable, and a person could not live a comfortable life. Unfortunately, if not administered carefully, they can lead to addiction.

Research shows addiction to painkillers can lead to heroin use partially because it is less expensive and more accessible than prescription opioids, according to the National Institute for Drug Abuse.

“Most public health officials and a growing number of policymakers now acknowledge that the country’s rise in prescriptions for opioid-type painkillers such as Vicodin, Oxycontin, and Percocet play a major role,” HealthLine says.

“People often assume prescription pain relievers are safer than illicit drugs because they are medically prescribed; however, when these drugs are taken for reasons or in ways or amounts not intended by a doctor … they can result in severe adverse health effects,” the National Institute on Drug Abuse says.

Additionally, in a 10-year poll, people who said they had used pain relievers for non-medical purposes were 19 times more likely to have tried heroin than people who had not used pain relievers outside their intended purposes, according to research published by the Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality.

How do you avoid the road to heroin abuse for yourself and your loved ones?

Educating yourself by reading this and other articles helps. Additionally, if you or a loved one has prescription opioids, follow your medical provider’s directions carefully. If you feel the prescription is wrong — either too high or too low — speak with your doctor to get it changed.

When you have leftover painkillers you don’t need, dispose of them properly, so neither you nor anyone else will be tempted to use them. The U.S. Food & Drug Administration gives continually updated information about how to dispose of various drugs.

Beating an addiction to painkillers or heroin may require rehabilitation, therapy and drug treatment. If your loved one is battling a heroin addiction, seek out a drug rehabilitation facility like Recovery in Motion.

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