Can Tamper-Proof Versions of Heavy Painkillers Push Addicts to Harsher Opioids?

Last modified: July 22, 2013 10:10:31 PM

A very disturbing trend which has been noted in an article from the world-renowned Time magazine is that while the new, abuse-proof versions of prescription painkillers such as Oxycontin and Opana can prevent new users from becoming addicts, long-time abusers who started taking the drugs before the new version came out are increasingly turning to harsher street drugs such as heroin in order to feed their addiction.

Originally hailed as a breakthrough, many thought abuse-proof versions of the painkillers would halt the prescription-pill addiction epidemic that is plaguing the U.S.  While it has been successful in preventing new addictions, those who were previously addicted have not all of a sudden become sober and clean because their supply got cut off; they are simply turning to heroin.  Heroin is easier to get, less expensive, and is easy to administer.  While the number of prescription pill abusers is going down, the number of heroin users is going up.  The problem of addiction has not been solved; addicts have simply changed the drug.

Drug detox centres and those in the recovery business say that there seems to be a dirty secret in the medical profession, which is that doctors prefer to treat prescription drug addicts rather than those who take illegal drugs because in a medicinal sense, it is easier – and safer.  Prescription drugs come in known quantities with known ingredients and the proper medical steps can be taken; heroin can be mixed with a multitude of toxic substances making it difficult to start the detox process.  An investigation into the specific supply of heroin must take place before a thorough medical procedure can begin.  Doctors are therefore more willing to provide medical treatment to those who abuse prescription drugs.

However, a huge point that the Time article demonstrates is that while many are investigating ways to prevent addiction to painkillers, nobody is investigating why people are looking for ways to get high.  Perhaps if more attention was spent investigating the root cause of why people are looking for ways to escape reality, addiction to any drug could very well be avoided.  The drug itself is not the problem; the problem is the need for the drug.

The most effective treatment for those who addicted to painkillers is not simply cutting them off.  Opioid abusers need to get into the medical system, get medical treatment for the addiction and get counselling services and psychiatric help to discover why they search for a high in the first place.  It is only with a multi-thronged approach that we can unlock the mysteries of addiction and find some sort of solution.  This is the only way that we can prevent a prescription-pill abuser from turning to the frightening dangers of heroin.