Painkillers and Heroin – the Bonds That Kill


Painkillers and heroin are potentially the bonds that kill, as those who start off as patients requiring chronic pain medication could become addicted to painkillers.  They may also be unintentionally opening the door to a heroin addiction as well.  Several of the painkillers on the market today, such as OxyContin, Percocet and Vicodin, are chemically similar to heroin, and many of those requiring heavy duty painkillers are realizing that purchasing heroin is far less expensive.

A baggie of heroin, for instance, can go for as little as $8 in New York City, and that is also the going price in Los Angeles.  Given that some of these painkillers, which are opiate derivatives in much the same way that heroin is, can cost as much as $1 a milligram, many chronic painkiller users are asking why they should pay so much when they can get the same sort of numbing effect to their pain for far cheaper in heroin.

While doctors are, for the most part, quite conscientious in how they prescribe drugs like OxyContin and Percocet, the medications can be dangerous to a recovering addict and reawaken heroin cravings, if that had been their drug of choice while using.  After a while, these formerly recovered addicts could be seeking the medications illicitly or making the leap to using heroin.  For many, prescription painkillers provide nearly the perfect high, particularly since the drugs do not smell as many illicit drugs do.

However, if people become addicted to painkillers and make the leap to using heroin, thereby enforcing the bonds that can kill, there are significant dangers, particularly if they are using alone.  Addicts, when in groups, can say to someone that they should slow down if it looks like they are using too much or can wake someone up if they nod off while using.  On their own, they are inviting a recipe for disaster.

In addition, unlike prescription medications that come in very clearly dosed amounts, heroin is not necessarily dosed.  What does happen, though, is that users who realize they need help and are planning for rehab – which can happen if addictions to painkillers occur, and it does all too frequently – they may binge on the drug, not realizing exactly how much heroin they are taking in.  Much the same situation occurs following rehab; tolerance levels are lower, and while the recovering addicts may prepare the same amount of the drug as before, which is, at best, an estimated amount, their tolerance to the drug is simply not the same.

Prescription drugs can be a dangerous game, particularly if patients taking them become addicted.  At $1 a milligram in some cases, prescription drugs may be far too expensive to warrant further exposure to them, so the bonds between prescription drugs and heroin are heightened, becoming the bonds that kill.  Heroin is far too available and so inexpensive that there is a greater danger of addiction than ever before.  While not every prescription painkiller user becomes a drug addict, the potential is there, leading to potentially fatal consequences.

By Christina St-Jean



New York Times