Prescription opioids are not to be taken lightly. Drugs like OxyContin, Percocet, and Vicodin are prescribed at unbelievably high rates, even amid an opioid addiction epidemic. While such drugs can alleviate pain, they are highly addictive and can dramatically alter the course of one’s life.
Last week, we shared the uplifting news that alcohol use disorder among college-age adults decreased by roughly half between 2002 and 2018. Research shows that the number of aged 18-22-year olds abstaining from alcohol is increasing.
The research was conducted at the University of Michigan (U-M) and Texas State University and was welcome during these challenging times. However, it’s critical that we remember that the United States contends with two public health crises: COVID-19 and an opioid addiction epidemic. What’s more, another study out of U-M confirms that heroin users first used prescription opioids.
Researchers found that nearly one-third of individuals who used prescription opioids non-medically in their senior year of high school later used heroin by age 35, according to a university news release. The findings appear in the Journal of Addiction Medicine.
From Prescription Opioids to Heroin
The U-M study also found that seniors who were prescribed opioids were at risk of using heroin later in life. The researchers found 21 percent of high school seniors who reported misusing prescription opioids and later received a prescription used heroin by age 35. Lead researcher Sean Esteban McCabe, professor and director of the Center for the Study of Drugs, Alcohol, Smoking and Health at the U-M School of Nursing, says:
“There are several generations who were overprescribed controlled medications with high misuse potential, such as opioids. Prescribing fewer opioids and the correct dosage is only one piece to the puzzle. The solution requires a much more comprehensive plan that includes better education, screening and interventions to reach high-risk individuals who often fly under the radar in many health care settings. We all played a role in creating the opioid crisis and we owe it to these individuals to address the problem.”
An earlier study published in the International Journal of Drug Policy found that 86 percent of young IV drug users had used opioid pain relievers non-medically before using heroin. While it’s more difficult to acquire prescription opioids in large quantities, diversion remains a severe problem. Many people still obtain opioids for misuse from friends and family members.
As an aside, Purdue Pharma agreed to plead guilty to criminal charges related to its OxyContin marketing practices. The pharmaceutical company faces $8.3 billion in penalties, The New York Times reports. The Sackler Family, which owns Purdue, agreed to pay $225 million in civil penalties.
Many people associate OxyContin’s introduction to the market in the mid-1990s as the beginning of the opioid addiction epidemic. Some people may remember that for many years the drug was marketed as being non-addictive. OxyContin or oxycodone was anything but non-addictive.
Millions of Americans living with an opioid use disorder can trace their addiction back to prescription opioids like oxycodone—the active ingredient of both Percocet and OxyContin. Young people who have the opportunity to misuse prescription opioids must be made to understand the dangers. Again, the risk of becoming dependent or addicted is exceptionally high, as are the overdose risks. If you are misusing prescription opioids or heroin, please reach out for assistance immediately.
Opioid Addiction Treatment Program
Even though prescription opioid abuse has declined in recent years, it is still a significant problem. Many people who use drugs for chronic pain become dependent and addicted to prescription opioids. Please contact Hemet Valley Recovery Center & Sage Retreat to learn more about our chronic pain and opioid addiction treatment program.