Prescription drug abuse carries far less of a stigma than heroin addiction does. The fact that the person is using drugs that many have been originally prescribed by a GP seems to add a layer of respectability to the behaviour. The reality is that there is very little difference between heroin addiction and prescription drug addiction; a recent article in the Washington Post revealed how many prescription drug users are switching over to heroin.
The Path from Prescribed Drugs for Heroin
The stereotype of the heroin addict is very misleading. As far as the public is concerned, it is only losers who end up falling into this addiction trap. Individuals take comfort in believing that heroin addicts were born damaged because they can reassure themselves that it could never happen to them. This is not the way things work, though – most heroin users were leading perfectly normal lives until they ended up addicted to this drug.
The path from prescribed drugs to heroin can begin from something as commonplace as a hurt shoulder. The person could be prescribed strong drugs to help deal with the pain. These may be opiates, which are the exact same class of drug as heroin; in fact, the pain killer diamorphine is the exact same as heroin. There is always the risk that the person taking strong opiates for a legitimate reason may develop a taste for the substance; this happens when the individual starts enjoying the pleasant side effects produced by the drug, such as euphoria and deep relaxation.
From Prescription to Abuse
A person may slip from taking drugs as prescribed to abusing them without even noticing. It can feel reasonable to take a little extra of the drug before bed, just to get a better night’s sleep. Before they know what is happening, the person is taking the substance to help them cope with life. Before too long they have become addicted.
Once people become addicted to prescription drugs, they have to behave unethically in order to get more of the substance. This could include lying to doctors about their symptoms or turning up at different hospitals in an attempt to get another prescription. These tactics may work for a while but eventually the person has to turn to the black market. They end up spending time with dealers, and it isn’t long before they notice that it may be cheaper for them to use street heroin than the expensive prescription drugs they have been buying.
The path from prescription drugs to heroin could potentially happen to anyone. The Washington Post article described middle-class housewives and schoolteachers who fall into this trap. These are people who would have never considered touching anything like heroin but by becoming addicted to prescription drugs it no longer seemed like such a big deal. The economics of the situation can make the switch to heroin almost inevitable.
All Drug Abuse Is the Same
Every person who falls into addiction will have a drug of choice, but these people are all dealing with more or less the same problem. Once a person is addicted, it is easy for them to move from one substance to the next. If the supply of the drug of choice is somehow compromised, or the person decides to give it up, they can easily move to a new drug of choice. Those individuals who get comfort from the idea that they are only abusing prescription drugs are in denial of reality; they are in as much danger as the person who buys heroin from back alleys.