According to a recent article by LiveScience, most cases of opioid abuse in teenagers began with prescription opioids from a doctor. The study cites that 85 percent of the surveyed group of teenagers that had abused both prescription and injection drugs said they abused prescription opioids, such as OxyContin and Vicodin, before moving to heroin an average of two years later.
Beyond the national scale, prescription drug abuse has become a domestic issue for the Sacramento region as well.
“OxyContin made its way [to the Sacramento region] maybe seven years ago,” said John Daily, founder and clinical director of Recovery Happens Counseling Services, in a recent Sac Magazine article. “Suddenly overnight half of our clients became opiate addicts.”
One reason for prescription opioid addicts switching to heroin and street opiates is the steep cost of OxyContin, Vicodin and other prescription painkillers.
“When Oxy became harder and harder to use, it became about easy access to heroin,” said Daily.
“The only time I ever saw [someone start using heroin after using prescription opioids] was somebody who did prescription painkillers every day and it got too expensive, essentially,” said resident August Garvin. “When people actually develop a legitimate addiction to prescription painkillers, it gets too pricey […] and [they] can’t get an excuse from the doctor anymore.”
Teenagers, at a hormonal and emotionally turbulent time in life, can sometimes see drugs as a solution to their problems.
“I was depressed […] so I think I was lashing out,” said Zoe Sanchez. “That was what made me experiment with [nonmedical use of prescription opioids].”
The danger also extends beyond just that of opiate use. According to a Sacramento Health and Human Services Public Health Warning, a dozen overdoses from an opioid called fentanyl were reported in Sacramento county within the timespan of approximately two days leading up to March 25th, 2016. The report describes fentanyl as “odorless and colorless”, and links the cases of overdose to the lacing of fentanyl with street tablets of Norco, a popular prescription opioid and an easy street marketing target for patients addicted to prescription Norco or other opioids.
While not all prescriptions result in addiction, caution should always be used with prescription opioids, and street-sold painkillers should be avoided at all costs. The road to heroin is not brightly lit, though unfortunately it seems to be well-traveled.