Does Prescribed Painkillers Increase the Risk of Heroin Addiction?

Prescribed painkillers are often necessary in order to help individuals cope with severe pain. It is of great benefit to people that such medications exist; however, there is the possibility of addiction with opiate medication. A recent study by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) found that people aged between 12 and 49 were nineteen times more likely to use heroin if they had used prescribed opiate medication in the last 12 months.

The Need for Prescribed Opiate Medication

Pain can make life unbearable, so it would be unethical not to offer opiate pain relief if this is what is needed to control the discomfort. Most individuals using these drugs for a short period never develop any problems, but the risk is always there. This is because these drugs have the potential to be highly addictive; heroin is also an opiate and many of the prescribed substances are actually stronger than this.

Those taking opiate medication while following the instructions of a competent doctor should not have any real problems. Those needing to use these substances for a long time can develop a physical dependence, but the physician should be able to manage this. The real problem starts when people begin using opiate medication for reasons other than why it was prescribed.

From Prescription Painkillers to Heroin

One thing that many notice when taking prescribed opiates is that there are some pleasurable side effects. The person may feel incredibly comfortable and, if the dose is high enough, the individual could experience euphoria – the exact same high that heroin users experience. The effects of the drug can also mean that the person forgets all of his or her troubles and feels incredibly good about things.

It is the fact that the side effects of prescribed drugs are so pleasant that puts the person at risk of addiction. Once the individual starts taking this medication to enjoy these effects then he or she has crossed the line into recreational use. It then does not take long for an addiction to develop, with the person having to take increasingly desperate measures to get more of the prescribed medications. Eventually it reaches a stage where the person cannot get their hands on the drug through the prescribed route, so the most obvious source will be drug dealers. It soon dawns on the person that it would be much cheaper to use street opiates like heroin; by this stage, they are going to be less concerned about the dangers of this type of addiction.

Keeping Things in Perspective

It is important not to overstate the dangers of prescribed opiate medication. This medicine has been used safely for a long time and, in most cases, there is no other option. The important thing is for users to be aware of the dangers and for doctors to only prescribe it when there are no other options. Some of the problems have occurred because doctors have been too willing to prescribe opiates, although addicted patients can be manipulative when trying to get access to a prescription.

How to Use Prescription Drugs Safely

If you are dealing with chronic pain and your doctor feels there is no better option than opiates, you probably do want to follow this expert advice. If you think there may be better options, you need to discuss this with your physician. The key to staying safe while on prescribed painkillers is to take them strictly as prescribed and to stop using them as soon as possible. It is also vital that you discuss any concerns with your doctor.

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