Prescription Drugs are Gateway to Heroin

In many cases, teens try prescription drugs and get hooked on the addictive medication. Soon, however, they are unable to afford the high cost of a drug like OxyContin and begin looking for alternatives to reach a similar high. All too often, that alternative is heroin. Compared to prescription drugs, it is cheap and easy to obtain. It is also severely addictive. While heroin use has historically been concentrated in urban areas, recent reports show that it’s becoming commonplace in suburban areas. In addition, overall use appears to have increased. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reports that there has been a significant increase in the number of deaths related to heroin abuse. In 1999, there were 198 deaths recorded for individuals between the ages of 15 and 24 that were related to heroin abuse. In 2009, that number had increased to 510. In addition, there has been a jump in the number of individuals seeking medical attention for problems related to heroin abuse. In 1999, 4,414 individuals sought treatment for heroin abuse, while in 2009 more than 21,000 individuals sought medical help for heroin abuse. The trends are mirrored in the use of prescription drugs. The number of deaths connected with prescription drug misuse or abuse tripled between 2000 and 2008, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The connection between prescription drugs and heroin may explain how heroin began appearing in suburban areas. While New York and California once represented half of heroin users, now the drug is being used in rural and suburban areas. Parents can have an important influence over whether their teen begins using prescription drugs and moves on to heroin use. Parents should carefully monitor the prescriptions in their homes. Children and teens should not be responsible for administering their own medication. Instead, parents should keep medications locked up to prevent any appearance of easy access. In addition, parents can keep an open dialogue with teens that allows for conversations about drug use. Parents should warn teens of the risks associated with the misuse of a prescription drug, as well as the risk of developing an addiction to heroin. Parents should also make known their wishes about potential drug use.

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