Addiction, Painkillers, Heroin, and the Poppy
I didn’t believe it until I researched it. All of these prescription painkillers like Oxycontin, Vicodin, Opana, Ultram, Suboxone, Demerol, Morphine, Methadone, and Fentynal, are remarkably similar to Heroin. They all come from the same damn plant! Scientists have just synthesized different components, tweaking them here and there, usually making them stronger. It’s amazing that so many drugs come from one little flower.
I’ve been shot up with Demerol for a Migraine. I’ve taken hydrocodone (generic Vicodin) after surgery. So I know what that floaty heroin feeling is. And I have to say it’s pretty compelling when you are in pain. If my life was crap, I could see how it would be easy to talk myself into wanting more and more.
Opioids and Heroin are Closely Related
One of the most dangerous things about alcohol and drug abuse is perception. There is a feeling that it can never happen to you because “I’m not like them.” The easiest way to draw such lines and put people in such boxes comes from a misunderstanding of addiction as a whole.
This false perception is fueled by the idea that certain drugs are “worse” than others – that somehow only certain people do certain things. The truth is people chasing a high with painkillers are chasing the very same dragon as those taking heroin. In fact, the prescription drugs can be stronger and more addictive.
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Taking pills may seem safer than injecting drugs. But more people overdose and die on prescription painkillers than on heroin. Drug dealers are beginning to stamp their pills to look like ones from a legal pharmacy. So even the pill form is not a guarantee of content. If you buy on the street, pills or heroin, you don’t know what you are taking.
Drug companies make a more controlled version of heroin in the shape of a pill. However, these pills are just as addictive and from the same ‘mother’ as heroin. While prescription pills may not make you think of heroin dens and turning tricks on the street corner, the high is the same. An illusion of safety can cause us to lose touch with reality – and start feeding the constant need for more pills.
It is foolish to think just because something is government regulated that it is less dangerous. There is an enormous black market for opioid painkillers. They are very easy to buy on the street, but they are not cheap. When people run out of money and can no longer afford the pills, many turn to a cheaper alternative that provides a very similar high: heroin.
“The price on the street for prescription painkillers, like OxyContin, got very expensive,” Cicero said. “It has sold for up to a dollar per milligram, so an 80 milligram tablet would cost $80. Meanwhile, they can get heroin for $10.” – The Changing Face of Heroin Use in the United States, JAMA Psychiatry, 2014
Drug Companies, Politics, and Opioids
You may ask – if the pain pills are so dangerous and the same as heroin, why are they legal? The answer is simple. Pain is big business. Big pharma has a big lobby.
Painkillers do serve a legitimate purpose. Some people need them for pain relief, recovery from accident and surgery, chronic pain, etc. But the sheer volume produced is far beyond what is required by the American people for legitimate reasons.
Pain is an easy market. Pharmaceutical companies need relatively little R&D for opioids compared to other drugs – most of the basic research was done in the early 20th century Germany. Plus, they have a constant demand and a lot of motivated buyers. Drug companies spend big bucks making sure they can produce what they want and sell what they want.
Addiction: Understanding the Pathology
It isn’t all in your head when you are chasing your high. You become physically and emotionally dependent on the painkillers. These drugs don’t just take away the pain – they give you a sense of euphoria. They make you feel that everything will be okay. It is an escape from reality; one that makes the sharp edges much harder to deal with when you are no longer taking the meds.
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The withdrawal symptoms from prescription opioids make heroin a cheap replacement. Making prescription painkillers harder to get directly created a growing market for heroin. This is why we now have a huge heroin problem.
If you have a problem with opioid or heroin addiction, we can help. There is hope. You are not alone. Understanding your pathology and why the craving is as intense as it is will help you face your demons and get through to the other side.