Addiction Substance Abuse

Prescription Drug Abuse May be a Factor in Later Heroin Addiction

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has released a report saying prescription drug abuse may be a factor in people eventually abusing heroin.

The report says specifically that people aged 12 to 49 who had used prescription pain relievers non-medically were 19 times more likely to have started using heroin within the year prior to being interviewed for the report.  The report also states that four out of five people who have recently started using heroin (79.5 percent) had previously abused prescription pain relievers.

prescription drugsAnd while that’s terrible news, the hint of silver lining is that the vast majority of people abusing prescription pain relievers did not start using heroin. In fact, only 3.6% of the people who started abusing pain relievers went on to use heroin within five years.

“Prescription pain relievers when used properly for their intended purpose can be of enormous benefit to patients, but their nonmedical use can lead to addiction, serious physical harm and even death,” said Dr. Peter Delany, director of SAMHSA’s Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality. “This report shows that it can also greatly increase an individual’s risk of turning to heroin use – thus adding a new dimension of potential harm.”

The report is part of SAMHSA’s ongoing efforts to get to the bottom of increasing heroin rates within the past few years.

The report also found that the number of people reporting that they have used heroin in the past 12 months rose from 373,000 people in 2007 to 620,000 people in 2011. Also, the number of people dependent on heroin in the past 12 months climbed from 179,000 people in 2007 to 369,000 people in 2011. The number of people starting to use heroin the first time in the past 12 months also increased from 106,000 people to 178,000 people during the same period.

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