When heroin first became a popular drug of choice among Americans in the 1960s, the average user was a low-income, 16-year-old, white male. Not anymore. Today’s heroin users are quite different, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

The JAMA study reports that the average heroin user today is affluent, lives in a non-urban area, first began using heroin around the age of 23, and only did so after beginning an opiate addiction by using and abusing prescription painkillers.

Painkillers to Heroin

It was an unexpected leap for many, according to CNN. Those who developed a heroin addiction after first becoming dependent upon painkillers often didn’t realize that the two drugs were so similar in mechanism and effect. They didn’t understand that experimenting with leftover OxyContin or Percocet prescribed to treat an acute injury or pain after surgery could lead to drug dependence. Nor did they realize that this trend would prove to be a countrywide epidemic – a deadly one at that – and that lawmakers and the medical community would respond with tightened restrictions and prescribing guidelines that made it difficult to get a legitimate prescription for these drugs in large amounts and impossible to afford them on the black market.

For those who got swept up in pill use and developed an opiate addiction only to find themselves suddenly unable to get the pills they needed to stave off withdrawal symptoms, there were only two options: go to rehab or find another drug to take the edge off. For many, rehab wasn’t an option and the drug of choice was heroin. Heroin and prescription painkillers are both opiate substances, so painkiller addicts found a familiar high when they tried heroin – and for a much more reasonable price tag.

Opiate Dependence in Any Form

Whether the drug of choice is heroin or prescription painkillers – or a combination of both – the end result is still a debilitating and deadly addiction. Both can end in overdose or a deadly accident under the influence, and long-term use of either can lead to chronic health problems and poor quality of life.

If someone you love is battling an opiate addiction, detox is the first step. Medicated detox is one option, allowing your loved one to stop taking their drug of choice immediately and replace it with a medication that will help them to avoid the bulk of withdrawal symptoms. Another option is quitting under medical supervision with directed treatment for each withdrawal symptom that poses difficulties. Learn more about the choices available to your family member in opiate detox here with us at Palm Beach Detox today.

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Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.