Prescription Opioids and Heroin: The US Opioid Epidemic

August 23, 2017 Misti Kuykendall

Opioid and heroin use spread rapidly through the US in recent years. Why? The fine line between misuse of opioids and heroin addiction plays a part. Read this.

Addiction to prescription opioids can lead to heroin use. Many who misuse prescribed opioid pain medication turn to heroin as a substitute (Over-prescription of Opioid Painkillers: A Deadly Problem). 12.5 million people misused prescription medication in 2015 and 15,281 people overdosed on commonly prescribed medication, according to the United States Department of Health and Human Services. Do you still think the United States opioid epidemic includes only street people shooting up heroin? Do you know the real connection between opioids and heroin?

Definition of Prescription Drug Abuse

The US Department of Health and Human Services also states that prescription drug abuse is defined by taking medication any other way than prescribed by a doctor. An estimated 52 million people have used prescription drugs for nonmedical reasons at least once in their lifetime.

The Opioids to Heroin Connection

Many people think that because pain-killing opioids are prescribed by doctors they aren’t harmful. By misusing the drug, people can become drug dependent. Once dependent, they seek out another way to obtain an opioid. Considering that opioid pain-killers and heroin find their connection in opium, heroin gives the same type of high the addict craves.

Heroin is cheaper and sometimes more accessible to the addict. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, a study of young, urban injection drug users interviewed in 2008 and 2009 found that 86 percent had used opioid pain relievers recreationally prior to using heroin.

The US Mobilizes to Stem Opioid and Heroin Epidemic

Opioid Addiction and Overdose Deaths

Former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Newt Gingrich, discussed at a recent criminal justice and drug policy reform conference in Washington, D.C, a major difference between opioid abuse and alcohol abuse:

When someone gets addicted to alcohol, then goes sober falling off the wagon results in that person simply getting drunk. But, as people abuse opioids, they build up a resistance to the drug. When they go clean, their body’s resistance to the drug fades. But, if they return to the drug, they often use the same dose they last used whey they were addicted and they overdose and die.

President Donald Trump Declares National Emergency on Opioid Epidemic

On August 10th, President Trump stated,

The opioid crisis is an emergency, and I'm saying officially, right now, it is an emergency. It's a national emergency. We're going to spend a lot of effort and a lot of money on the opioid crisis.

Experts said that the national emergency declaration would allow the executive branch to direct funds towards expanding treatment facilities and supplying police officers with the anti-overdose remedy naloxone.

Opioid and Heroin Addiction Hits Home

As a young girl, I watched my mother struggle with her prescription drug addiction. I watched helplessly as her life fell apart. Ultimately she died from an opioid drug overdose.

Addiction does not discriminate. It knows no social status, color, profession or religion. If you know someone who is abusing prescription medication or heroin encourage them to seek help and celebrate those who are already seeking help.


APA Reference
Kuykendall, M. (2017, August 23). Prescription Opioids and Heroin: The US Opioid Epidemic, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 18 from

Author: Misti Kuykendall

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Annette Llamas
September, 1 2017 at 7:57 pm

Have you written any books on depression?

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