Regulations designed to make it more difficult to abuse prescription painkillers are leading to an increase in heroin addiction, MSNBC reports. Heroin is inexpensive, powerful and may be even more destructive than painkillers, experts note.
Law enforcement officials report there is an abundance of cheap heroin from Mexico. They are seeing it in upscale suburbs, where heroin was once hard to find. Young heroin users are increasing in areas including Illinois suburbs, Long Island, New York, and Seattle. Emergency room visits for heroin use among young adults are on the rise, according to the national Drug Abuse Warning Network.
Until recently, heroin addiction was seen mainly in men living in urban areas, many of them minorities. In Ohio, most people entering treatment programs for heroin addiction are white, and many are young. They come from both poor rural areas and wealthy suburbs, and many are female.
In Ohio, “doctor shopping” for painkillers has become more difficult since the state implemented a database to track prescriptions. The state also passed a law in 2011 to help fight “pill mills” that dispense painkillers. Many other states have taken similar steps to fight prescription drug abuse, the news report notes.
As a result of these measures, prescription painkillers have become more expensive–$30 to $80 per pill, compared with $10 for a bag of heroin.
Dr. Steven Matson of Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, says he now sees many young people from upscale suburbs who use heroin. “Because of the availability of these drugs now, it is not an unusual story that we hear, ‘I went to a party, some friends there were doing heroin, so I shot up,’” he said. “It seems like madness that you would go to a party and never have used anything and then use heroin. But that’s what’s happening with some children.”