Heroin use among young, white suburban users has risen dramatically over the last decade, fueled in part by an increase in addiction to prescription painkillers like OxyContin, a new study has found. In 2008, over 900,000 12-to-17 year olds began abusing prescription pain pills, and initiations to heroin have increased 80% since 2002, according to the study. There’s evidence, too, that pills are perceived as somehow “cleaner” or “safer” than hardcore street drugs like heroin: one-third of the study’s participants were dependent on opioid pills before transitioning to heroin, and “pill users’ perception of heroin use were softened (e.g. they were less scared to try it) once they realized the connection between opioid pills and heroin,” the study found. In addition, the majority of heroin interviewees “had little or no education regarding heroin use and dependency” – which is especially disturbing given that over 50% of heroin-dependent persons will be dead before the age of 50, the study says. And participants “reported relatively high disapproval of heroin use but comparatively low disapproval of using opiate pills…[they] were not necessarily clear about the linkage between opiate pills and heroin.”
Now that the statistics are finally starting to reflect the reality – that pills often put users straight on the path to heroin – what are we going to DO about it?