Replacing Heroin Addiction with Prescription Pill Abuse

Addiction to heroin can be challenging but not impossible to overcome with the right support and treatment. Unfortunately it is more likely a person with addiction to heroin or similar drugs may develop dependence to other drugs within the same drug class in a situation known as cross-addiction. Cross-addiction is becoming increasingly common, particularly for persons with addiction to heroin who become addicted to prescription opioids (oxycodone or hydrocodone). Learn more about why cross-addiction matters, the dangers, and how to deal with it if it arises.


Replacing Heroin Addiction with Prescription Pill Abuse

Tolerance develops when a person uses alcohol or drugs repeatedly for a long period of time and does not respond to the drug in the same way any longer. A person who develops tolerance becomes physically dependent on the substance and requires more of the drug to achieve the desired effect. Tolerance to the substance develops as the pain receptors become less responsive and sensitive to the drug. The individual then needs higher and more dangerous doses of a substance to achieve the same initial response putting the individuals at risk for cross-addiction.


The Challenge of Opiate Addiction

People who use illicit drugs or develop dependence may take similar-acting drugs for many reasons. Prescription painkillers are more available, cheaper or more easily accessible than heroin. Heroin uses will take prescription opioids in the same drug class. Prescription medications can prevent some of the negative withdrawal symptoms from occurring when a person stops taking heroin. People who take prescription pain medications for non-medical reasons are likely to try heroin within the next 10 years. As tolerance develops, the person can potentially switch back and forth between drugs, developing an even higher tolerance for opioids as more and more of the substance is needed to have the same effect. Heroin is highly addictive and users are three times more likely to develop opioid dependence with 54 percent of heroin users potentially developing dependence also. Only 14 percent of people using opioid prescriptions non-medically are reported to develop dependence, but it often leads to prescription pill abuse.


Pain Management with Opiates

It is possible for people to develop tolerance to the prescribed dose even when taking medications as prescribed. Due to lower perceptions of harm associated with doctor-prescribed pain medications compared to heroin and other illicit drugs, patients who develop tolerance may begin taking higher doses than prescribed. Nearly 1 in 10 people in 2010 used prescription pain medications when it was not prescribed or took larger than prescribed doses.


Potential Benefits

The development of pharmacological treatments has benefited from research of opioid cross-tolerance. Scientists have developed prescription drugs which act in the same way certain addictive opioid drugs do to reduce withdrawal effects of persons in treatment for addiction to opioids. The recent use of buprenorphine maintenance therapy (BMT) for treating opioid dependence has revolutionized treatment of dependence on opioids for patients nationwide. Buprenorphine has not been seen to cause any additional effects at higher doses and is considered safer than methadone.


Higher Power offers supportive transitional recovery services to bridge the gap in traditional treatment plans. For more information about opioid and prescription drug abuse and dependence or to find out how Hired Power can help you with recovery, call us today at 800-910-9299.

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