22 August 2016

Does Prescription Drug Abuse Lead to Heroin Addiction?

Many people assume that those affected by illnesses such as heroin addiction chose to take these drugs recreationally. Nonetheless, it is becoming apparent that ever-more individuals are turning to drugs such as heroin after developing a dependency on prescription medication first.

The problem with prescription drug addiction is that it is getting worse both here in the UK and in the US, with recent news reports in the States suggesting that ‘painkillers are turning young athletes into heroin addicts’.

Do Opioids Lead to Heroin Addiction?

Most are of the opinion that any medication prescribed by a GP must be safe. While this type of medication is considered safe when taken as prescribed by a doctor, if abused, it can be very dangerous. Prescription medication is quite strong and is highly addictive; this is the reason it is only prescribed by a qualified medical professional.

Many people who take strong opioid medication will go on to develop an addiction, and many of these will not even realise they have developed a physical dependence until trying to stop taking the drugs. At this point, the affected person might start to exhibit drug-seeking behaviour and may become desperate to get their hands on their medication.

A large number of individuals previously prescribed a strong medication by a doctor for legitimate reasons could find that, after a while, they are not getting the same relief that they were initially getting when initially taking the pills. This may mean these persons start to take higher doses as they assume it will be safe to do so. Increasing the dosage usually results in an increased tolerance to the drug, which is what stops the person getting the same relief that they once did.

If a person with a prescription drug addiction is unable to get a new prescription from his or her GP, he or she might start to feel irritable and anxious. Some will visit numerous doctors in a bid to get more prescriptions for the drugs. Others will turn to the internet to source their drugs, which can be dangerous, especially as many of the pills sold online are fake.

Unfortunately, there are those that will turn to alternative sources of relief, such as illegal street drugs. It is sad, but it is also true that some people with a prescription drug addiction will go on to develop a heroin addiction.

Heroin Addiction Consequences

Heroin is cheaper and more widely available than many prescription medications, and for those who are desperate to get their hands on opioid medication, it can appear the perfect alternative. However, the biggest danger of buying heroin on the streets is that it is impossible to tell how pure it is.

Heroin dealers will cut their product with other substances in order to make it go further. This maximises their profits, and they have little regard for the safety of their customers. There is a major risk of overdose for those who take heroin, especially if they have been taking a particular strength of drug and then take a stronger or more ‘pure’ batch.

Heroin addicts often build up a tolerance to the drug quite quickly. Those who return to the drug after a period of rehabilitation are in danger of overdosing. This is because it is often assumed that the person in question can take the same amount of the drug that they were taking before they started treatment. Sadly, even a few days of abstinence from heroin can dramatically decrease a person’s tolerance for the substance.

Treating Addiction

Those with an addiction to opioid medication are in danger of developing a heroin addiction if they become desperate when their prescription runs out. It is vital that these individuals get help as soon as possible.

The problem with treating prescription medication addiction is the fact that many are unaware they have it until they try to quit. At that point, they will feel desperate and anxious to get their hands on something that will provide the relief they desire. Many act out of desperation when they turn to street drugs such as heroin.

These individuals cannot comprehend the fact that they have an addiction and are unaware that treatment actually exists for prescription drug addiction. Nevertheless, the reality is that all types of addiction can be treated, and early intervention is the key to success.

With the right treatment and support, any addiction can be overcome. Those with a prescription drug addiction or a heroin addiction can overcome their illness by completing a programme of detoxification followed by a rehabilitation programme.

Rehabilitation programmes are typically inpatient or outpatient programmes and include treatments such as motivational interviewing, cognitive behavioural therapy, peer support group therapy sessions, individual counselling, and contingency management. The aim of rehabilitation is to help the patient identify the cause of the addictive behaviour and to enable him or her to recognise triggers and cues going forward in order to prevent relapse.

Source: Are painkillers driving high school footballers into heroin addiction? (Daily Mail)

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