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Are Prescribed Opioids a Gateway to Heroin?

Amid an ongoing opioid crisis, individuals who need prescribed opiates may worry if using these drugs could lead to using heroin or other related opioids. The simple answer to this worry is yes. Prescribed opioid use is a risk factor for heroin use, but why and how?

Why Opioid Use Can Lead to Heroin Use

Although opioids are prescription drugs that a doctor should oversee, there is an epidemic of opioid abuse. These drugs are highly addictive and should only be prescribed with the utmost attention to follow-up care.

Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Many people initially prescribed opioids by their doctor will develop an addiction. With the high costs of prescription medication and the crackdown on prescribing such medication, heroin often becomes the next stage.

Roughly 75% of those who entered heroin addiction treatment in the 2000s began using opioids via prescription. This is a vast shift from those who were using opioids in the 1960s. One in five people is at an increased risk for addiction with as little as a ten-day prescription of opioids.

The Dangers of Opioids

The dangers of opioids reach far and wide. Not only does using prescription opioids leave someone vulnerable to using heroin, but because heroin’s strength is more challenging to determine than a prescribed opioid, it often leads to overdose and death. In addition to addiction, other side effects of opioid abuse include:

  • Vomiting or nausea
  • Drowsiness
  • Confusion
  • Constipation
  • Slowed breathing
  • Slowed or stopped heartbeat
  • Withdrawal if drug use stops suddenly
  • Compulsive drug-seeking behavior

The Importance of Medication Management

Because opioids are so likely to lead to addiction, it is crucial for doctors and clients to work together on a medication management plan in order to prevent misuse. Misuse can be taking too much medicine, taking someone else’s medicine, taking it in a different way than you are supposed to, or taking medicine to get high.

Opioid misuse is one of the most common roads to abuse, but it is preventable with a plan. When first prescribing you an opioid, your physician should provide you with the risks associated with the medications and a plan to taper off and ultimately cease use. There should always be follow-ups and a great deal of attention paid to the risks of such medication.

Without this level of care, the chances of developing an addiction increase. Once that happens, treatment for addiction is necessary and often includes medically-assisted therapy (MAT), detox, and long-term care.

The Guest House is a premier-quality treatment center for those suffering from trauma, addiction, or mental illnesses. We provide a safe and comfortable setting for you to receive the care and attention you need to overcome your struggles. We take the opioid crisis seriously and treat both prescription opioid and heroin addiction from detox through outpatient care to ensure your health and recovery. If you or a loved one are battling opioid addiction, contact us today at (855) 483-7800 for more information.