New research shows that drug abusers are not completely abandoning prescription opioids for heroin. Instead, many use the two concurrently based on their availability, according to a survey of 15,000 patients at drug-treatment centers in 49 states.
The findings, from researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, also reveal regional variations in the use of heroin and prescription painkillers. The research is published Oct. 29 in a letter in The New England Journal of Medicine.
“On the East and West coasts, combined heroin and prescription drug use has surpassed the exclusive use of prescription opioids,” said senior investigator Theodore J. Cicero, PhD. “This trend is less apparent in the Midwest, and in the Deep South, we saw a persistent use of prescription drugs — but not much heroin.”
Across the country in 2014, almost 42 percent of drug users in treatment reported they had taken heroin and prescription painkillers within a month of entering treatment, up from 23.6 percent in 2008, the researchers found.
“We see very few people transition completely from prescription opioids to heroin; rather, they use both drugs,” he said. “There’s not a total transition to heroin, I think, because of concerns about becoming a stereotypical drug addict.”
Source: Washington University in St. Louis – October 28, 2015