Prescription Painkillers is the New Gateway Drug to Heroin
Prescription painkillers have replaced marijuana as the new gateway drug for teens. The only problem is prescription painkillers are expensive and can be hard to come by once those refills disappear. What is cheaper, easier to come by, and has a stronger effect than the painkillers…heroin. Among 12- to 17- year-olds, introduction to heroin has increased 80 percent since 2002, according to the data obtained by NBC. The prevalence of heroin is often connected to prescription pain medication, like Oxycontin, which is legal and easily accessible to some teens. On average the cost for prescription painkillers is $20-$60, but the price of a bag of heroin is only $3-$10. Due to the new chemical make-up of the drug, users do not have to resort to shooting heroin with needles. It can now be snorted or smoked. However, it has been reported that users usually revert to shooting up because it is the quickest way for the drug to enter the blood stream, having the most power effects. Some dealers are lacing the drug with fentanyl, which is used for pain control. Fentanyl is estimated to be 100 times more powerful than morphine. This additive will only add to the harmful effect of this very dangerous drug.
Death from heroin overdose is on the rise as well. Around the nation, teen deaths from heroin use have also gone up, from just 198 in 1999 to 510 in 2009, a 157% increase, according to the National Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Deaths from prescription drugs have increased as well. Nationwide between 2000 and 2008 the numbers have tripled, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Why has Heroin Become a Concern for Suburban America?
A retired Chicago police officer claims that no one ever thought it would be a problem in suburban areas; it was mainly issues for the busy, city neighborhoods. Consequently, drug education and prevention was utilized in the urban areas, and the kids in suburbia fell through the cracks. They do not fully comprehend the dangerous effects of prescription painkillers and heroin because they never received the education. The urban children know to stay away from heroin and other harmful drugs. Kids in suburbia never got the message.
According to experts, they say that over the past few years heroin is becoming the drug of choice for many suburban teens that don’t recognize the stigma – or the harm – associated with the dangerous narcotic.
Darien Chief of Police, Ernest Brown, says to look for these warning signs:
- •Changes in behavior
- •Disregard for social activities or friends that they previously regarded highly
- •Falling grades
- •Disinterest in appearances
- •Overly secretive
- •Changes in eating or dietary habits
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