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Why Prescription Abuse Turns To Heroin Addiction



In 2015, up to 52,404 Americans took a lethal drug overdose, making it the leading cause of accidental death in the United States. In many state court cases, certain pharmaceutical companies are being blamed for driving the epidemic.

However, the question isn't how Americans who are prescribed opioids for pain medication are becoming addicted to these drugs. The question is how these Americans are becoming addicted to heroin.

The dangers of prescription opiate medications
The opiate drug class has been used for prescription drugs since the 19th century. Heroin, called diamorphine, served the same purpose as prescription opioids. It helped to reduce pain. However, heroin and other opioids produce artificial endorphins while they block the pain receptors in the brain.

Artificial endorphins cause the body to stop producing its own natural endorphins in order to maintain balance in the blood. Therefore, when the person stops taking the opiate, they are temporarily left with minimal to no endorphins.

Endorphins are what allows us to feel joy, happiness, and euphoria. When the patient stops taking the opiate, they become depressed and experience terrible flu-like symptoms. This is called the withdrawal stage.

Why substance abusers turn to heroin
It's the withdrawal stage that causes many Americans to become substance abusers and ultimately what pulls them to heroin. There are key factors involved in the development of the addiction. These factors include:

  • Substitution: Heroin and other opioids are all derived from opium. Heroin gives the same "high" effect as prescription pain medication.

  • Cost: Prescription pain medication is notoriously expensive. Heroin, while not cheap, is still cheaper than the individual pill.

  • Ease of location and use: Heroin is easier to find than prescription pain medication because the substance abuser doesn't need the prescription. They need only to find a person with a prescription willing to sell their medication for money. Heroin is also far easier to use for the sake of getting high because pain medication itself is meant to get rid of pain, not to make the person high. When swallowed, the pill provides a low dosage. To get high, the addict must crush the pills in order to make an injectable solution. Heroin automatically comes as a powdered solution and so the substance abuser doesn't need to crush the pills.

What treatment for heroin detox is available?
First discovered in the Netherlands, methadone treatment is becoming popular among those suffering from heroin addiction and in need of heroin rehab. Methadone works to block both the pain receptors in the brain (allowing for the substance abuser to steer clear of the withdrawal symptoms) while also blocking the "high" that results from heroin and other opioids.

Methadone centers utilize the services of professional doctors and psychiatrists. Therefore, the patient is able to use both therapy and medicinal assistance to successfully combat their addiction.

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