Since 1997, when prescription pain medication began advertising campaigns n broadcast television, opiate prescriptions have risen 500 percent. In 2010 alone, there were enough prescriptions to medicate every American adult with painkillers around the clock for a month (Courier Post). The FDA was able to recognize the effects that flooding America with opiates had produced, and subsequently pressured pharmaceutical companies to reformulate their versions of the opiate painkillers.
When Purdue Pharmacy, the producers of the widely-prescribed Concoction, made their pills harder to crush and then snort or inject in 2010 (Bloom), it was assumed that the change would only bring about good in the future years in terms of opiate abuse. In order to understand the butterfly effect that has launched America into a new drug epidemic, one must delve into the template of abuse seen in opiate users.
Codeine, the active drug in most opiate painkillers, is more potent and has a higher potential for dependency than other opiates such as codeine and morphine (Warren and Hudson) but is commonly prescribed for its effectiveness as a pain killer. As a person uses opiates, they both raise their body tolerance of the substance while creating a physical and psychological dependency on the drug. After the month’s worth supply of the drug is depleted, users are left with more than Just an empty pill bottle.
Addiction to any opiate takes a very short time to set in, and users feel withdrawal symptoms when they no longer have the medicine in constant supply. Anxiety, nausea, fatigue, flu-like symptoms, and panic attacks are all symptoms that a person experiences while withdrawing from opiates (www. Drugless. Com). Addiction starts to control a person’s life once they seek out more opiates to avoid and alleviate these withdrawal symptoms. Take, for example, Jean Abortion, a 29-year-old resident of Palmyra, NJ who recently contributed to an article in the Courier Post.
Abortion started a 5-year addiction to opiates when she first popped a MGM Perforce at the age of 19. She liked the feeling, and spending the occasional $10 to get high snowballed into an addiction that was costing her $200-$300 a day on pills alone. Jean Abortion fell victim to an addiction that overtook her young, naive body. Speaking on her ailment, she says eventually he motivation “was no longer to get that [high] feeling, it was Just to to be sick” (Courier Post). As money became less and less available to spend on the drug, Abortion sought other ways to get her high at a lower price.
Her alternative: heroin. Pause the story right there. Heroin? Yes, you didn’t read wrong; and no, this isn’t just an isolated story of prescription opiates being a gateway drug to heroin. In fact, Jean Briton’s story reflects an issue in society that is becoming more and more prominent. Prescription pills have become a sort of middle ground between alcohol and drugs considered recreational (I. E. Marijuana) and the drugs traditionally noninsured to be “hard” drugs (cocaine, heroin, meet) according to Joe Peters, an attorney general of Pennsylvania Coachman).
People abusing prescription pills are often uneducated about the consequences of abuse and addiction to such drugs. Pill addiction, however, can become very expensive, and, when coupled with the doctor’s office visits to obtain a prescription and trips to the pharmacy to actually get the pills, very time consuming. When funds, or laziness, prevents pill addicts from getting their fix, the new trend is to transition to heroin use. Heroin and opiate prescription pills work to affect the same neurotransmitters in the brain, simulating endorphins that bind to podia receptors throughout the body (Warren and Hudson).
A person who is addicted to pills, therefore, stimulates the same euphoric sensation of heroin; utilizing the same receptors that heroin binds to. As the FDA creates more restrictions to battle prescription pill abuse, many addicts are driven to the less regulated, cheaper, more potent heroin. A study conducted in 2012 by New England Journal of Medicine found that since Purdue Pharmacy 2010 form of the drug Concoction, heroin use in the 39 states studied had doubled (Bloom). Another study showed that while only 3. Percent of people who abused prescription pain pills went on to abuse heroin, heroin use was 19 times higher in people who had previously abused pills than those who had not (Courier Post). The patterns of heroin use, surprisingly, are also changing as prescription pills drive addicts to its use. Generally, a person will first “pop” or swallow pills to get high. Crushing the pills and snorting or sniffing the powder tends to be the next step s users seek a quicker hitting high. Lastly, in cases of very serious addiction, users will smoke the pills or inject the drug, similar to how heroin is used.
Let me correct myself; how heroin was used. Studies in New York, Chicago, and Newark showed that “sniffing/snorting heroin is now the most widely reported means of taking heroin” (Warren and Hudson). This trend lends itself to reinforce the reality of the pill-to-heroin transition. For years, the idea of injecting oneself via needle was enough negative reinforcement to keep heroin from becoming a widely used drug. Now, with a greater demand for an opiate high, the stigma of using heroin doesn’t deter pill addicts from making the switch Coachman).
Jean Abortion knows all too well about this exact transition. She states that nobody she knew used heroin, so nothing was motivating her to try the drug other than the price; $10 a bag. With prescription pills at $1 per milliard Coachman), spending a fraction of the price and getting a stronger high from heroin appealed to Jean and so many other users. Six-to-nine months later, Jean again found herself depleted of money and addicted to heroin. She was told that muff can shoot it [heroin]” and she “let somebody stick a needle in [her] arm. ” With stories like Ms.
Briton’s becoming more common, public media is buzzing with ways to reduce the amount of prescription painkillers that are on the streets. Recently, the FDA drafted a plan that would raise hydrocarbon, the active drug in Eviction, from a Schedule Ill drug too Schedule II drug. Schedule II is the most restrictive category for any approved drug (Bloom). The new classification will no longer allow doctors to phone in prescriptions to pharmacies for any narcotic drug. While the goal of the FDA is to make sure prescription pills are only going to the people who need them, the effects may very well hurt those same people.
Delayed time between the last pill in a bottle and renewing that prescription could cause tremendous pain to people who need the pills for medical purposes. Doctors may become less inclined to write prescriptions for ailing patients in fear of scrutiny and being put on a “list” (Bloom). The end result of Purdue Pharmacy 2010 changes to Just one pill that was available eventually lead to the heroin epidemic facing America today, so how much impact will this law have on the future of addiction? Don’t be surprised if heroin usage continues to rise as the prescription pill crackdown broadens its scope.
Three months ago, I sat in English class and listened to Rebecca and Marl as they told the rest of us about their addiction to heroin and the recovery they’ve endured. Rebecca said something along the lines of, “There better not be anybody messing around with Rosier in here,” a statement I brushed off because, well, I wasn’t. A month or so down the road as I looked at that first blue line of powder, her warning as the farthest thing from what I was thinking. I tumbled into a month or two of really meaningless life.
I skipped school to get high with friends, slacked off in work for both of my Jobs, and my relationships at home became distant and unimportant. Now I’m struggling to scrape together what I can from a semester that I should have passed with flying colors and dealing with the aftermath of an Autumn of addiction. I have been clean since October 26th, and I have no doubt that I will stay strong and sober. About 4 days into my recovery, a friend offered me a prepared line of the very rug from which I was still feeling withdrawal symptoms.
In the movie Eloper (2012), the main character reaches an epiphany when he is able to foresee the future that would manifest from actions that were happening in the present. He embodies his role as a tragic hero when he flips his shotgun around and takes his life for the good off mother and son he was protecting. I saw the drug in front of me, and I knew the feeling it would cause me to have. But I also saw the road that I had Just come from, the ups and downs I’d been through living an addictive life, and I made the decision o decline my friend’s offer.