That’s more than double in two years.
Prescription drug overdose still trumps heroin, with more than twice as many people fatally overdosing on pharmaceuticals in 2012. Prescription opioids and heroin have more in common than you may know, and in fact may have something to do with soaring heroin rates.
Opioids (also known as narcotics) are drugs that derive from the opium poppy. Opium, morphine, oxycodone, codeine and Percocet are just a few examples. Heroin is an illicit opioid, but the effects are the same.
Narcotics are sedatives. They manipulate the parts of the brain that control pain management, increasing the pain threshold and numbing pain receptors. Pharmaceuticals like morphine and oxycodone are used as heavy painkillers, but they also have a very high rate of addiction. In fact, many people experience symptoms of withdrawal after being on prescription drugs; they just don’t know it. Withdrawal symptoms mirror those of other illness such as runny nose, cough, nausea and vomiting, so many think that they just have a cold. Those who understand addiction know that if they take more of the drug, their withdrawal symptoms will cease. And so begins the vicious cycle of addiction.
More and more people are becoming addicted to prescription drugs. Victims include doctors, lawyers, ministers, mothers, and other people from all strata of society. Because opioids are so unexpectedly strong, most people don’t know how to recognize the signs of addiction to be able to tackle them right away.
From Painkillers to Heroin
So what is the bridge between prescription opioids and heroin?
Those addicted to pharmaceuticals often find clever ways to get their hands on more drugs. They shop around to different doctors, feigning illness; they find a shady pharmacist to hook them up; or they ransack the medicine cabinets of friends or family members. These approaches are limited, however. Not to mention expensive.
Heroin, on the other hand, is readily available on the black market. It can even be purchased online, on websites such as Silk Road, and shipped to your front door through the US Postal System. Not only that, it’s cheaper.
In no time at all, the most innocent housewife can go from patient to heroin addict, losing everything she has as the drug overtakes her life.
Signs of Addiction
If you are on prescription painkillers, watch for the following signs of addiction.
- Thinking about the drug even when you are not taking it.
- Carving your day out around the use of the drug.
- Becoming individuated, neglecting your usual hobbies or social activities in order to take the drug.
- Feeling the need to justify use of the drug, or hiding your use from friends or loved ones.
- Finding underhanded ways to get more of the drug, including lying to your doctor or stealing from family members.
- Signs of pain or illness when you are not taking it, which are eased when you resume use of the drug.
- Significant increases in the amount of time you spend sleeping.
- Changes in your speech, including garbled or slurred speech.
- Neglect of personal hygiene or appearance.
- Feeling of apathy or lack of motivation toward goals.
- Hostility toward friends and family, including blaming them for your condition.
- Weight loss.
- Loss of menstrual cycle (for women).
- Incessant runny nose with no medical reason.
If you exhibit the signs of addiction, do not hesitate to get the help you need. Opioid addiction will have no other outcome than the destruction of your life.