Prescription Painkillers: The Gateway to Heroin?

Prescription Painkillers The Gateway to Heroin

Sometimes the numbers speak for themselves. In the case of prescription painkillers, what those numbers say is a major health crisis. In the United States and other countries where opioid medications are easily obtained, the addictive risks of painkillers have spread from chronic use, to fatalities, and finally to crossovers – to heroin.

As reported on, in the United States alone, about 5% of those aged 12 and over use painkillers such as Vicodin, Percocet, and Oxycodone. Since 1999, sales in the United States of these drugs have increased four times. In 2010, there were enough sales of opioids to give every single adult in the United States a 5mg dose of hydrocodone… every four hours! In 2012, there were 12 million Americans using painkillers recreationally, a staggering 400% increase from a decade earlier. As shocking as these numbers are, the most apparent sign of the painkiller crisis comes in the form of fatalities. The recent heroin-related death of Philip Seymour Hoffman, who first became addicted to painkillers, is but the most recent high profile case. In 2008, the movie star Heath Ledger died of an overdose of painkillers. These high profile cases are the most publicised cases of an epidemic of death sweeping the United States. In 1999, there were 4,000 deaths caused by painkiller overdose. By 2008, the figure had skyrocketed to 14,800. This makes painkillers the leading cause of accidental death in the United States at present. As sobering as these statistics are, a further complication in the painkiller story has emerged. Currently, almost 80% of heroin users start by using painkillers. So, not only are prescription painkillers highly addictive and even deadly themselves, they can also prove to be a gateway to what some experts have called ‘the most addictive drug,’ heroin. Dr. Banta-Green, a researcher at the University of Washington’s Drug and Alcohol Research Institute, says that systematic and sustained efforts are needed to reduce the epidemic of painkiller abuse. First, there must be greater controls and regulations on prescriptions. Second, there must be greater access to drug treatment. Third, there must be educational and prevention efforts to reduce accidental overdoses. And finally, there must be public discourse that addresses the gravity of the problem. The Cabin, Chiang Mai, offers world-class treatment for all forms of addiction. If you are considering treatment, please consult one of our specialists today.