In keeping with the ever-changing hues of drug addiction, these days heroin has taken on a different shade of opiate. When heroin becomes hard to find, addicts turn to another form of their go-to drug: prescription opioids like OxyContin, Vicodin or Percocet. Addicts will tell you themselves: it’s all the same high, anyway.
Heroin Verses Prescriptions: All in the Same Family
Opioids—also known as narcotics—are a classification of drugs that derive from the opium poppy. These drugs operate on the central nervous system in the same way: to sedate, numb pain, and (when abused) create euphoria.
To a patient recovering from surgery, opioids are a blessing in an IV. To a heroin addict, they are the god around which all things revolve. But make no mistake, all are of the same ilk—and all can be abused.
Medication like OxyContin, Vicodin and Percocet are prescribed to treat pain. However, this can rapidly spiral out of control and patients may find themselves experiencing withdrawal symptoms if they stop taking it. This is a sign of physical dependence. Many do not recognize the symptoms of withdrawal because they appear as the same symptoms of a cold or flu—runny nose, coughing, sneezing, nausea, vomiting and trouble sleeping. Those who can see the signs, however, know that they need only take more of the drug to cause symptoms to abate. And so they do, and so addiction begins.
Prescription drug abuse takes on many forms. The drugs themselves can be crushed and snorted or injected. People take them to get high, to drown their sorrows, or to quell their cravings. They feign illness, steal from friends or family members, and even bribe pharmacists in order to get more.
Aside from alcohol and marijuana, prescription drugs are the most commonly abused substances by Americans.
From Street Drugs to Prescription
As the War on Drugs clamps down on heroin distribution, it can become difficult to find the popular street drug in some areas. Rather than deal with cagey dealers or toy with the possibility of getting caught, users turn to what seems like an easier high. More expensive, maybe, but it can be as simple as finding a shady pharmacist willing to take cash on a regular basis.
Since drugs like OxyContin create the same effects as heroin, users make their way into the pharmaceutical world when they are worried about street drugs. The only trouble is, they have to have money. Those little babies are worth ten times more than heroin—earning them a name as a “rich kid’s” drug.
The trouble with opioids, whether illicit or prescription, is that they have devastating consequences. Side effects of opioid abuse and addiction include:
- Tolerance (requiring more of the drug to create the same effects, because the body is getting used to the normal dose)
- Mood swings
- Respiratory depression
- Muscle spasms
Opioids have often been called the most addictive substance known to man. Addiction can take over unexpectedly, leading a person to do unthinkable things in order to get more of the drug. Stealing from family members, using violent behavior, and lying in order to get more drugs are only a few of the common results of opioid abuse and addiction.