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How People Get Addicted to Heroin

Turning Point, Inc.

Heroin is widely acknowledged to be a highly dangerous drug, so an easy question to ask someone suffering from addiction is, “How did you get addicted?”

The road to heroin addiction, except for extreme cases, is often long and littered with warning signs. Between 2002 and 2013, there were approximately 170,000 new users each year. While that number stayed fairly consistent, the total number of users each year has increased across all genders, most age groups, and all income levels.

Reasons For First-Time Use

It’s hard to imagine someone waking up on an average Tuesday with the thought that today is the day they try heroin. Rather, the impulse tends to come as the result of other circumstances.

  • Addiction to prescription painkillers: According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 45% of people who used heroin were also addicted to prescription opioid painkillers. Getting addicted to prescription drugs can start in many ways, from abuse in a casual setting to getting addicted while prescribed painkillers for an injury or condition. Whether their prescription ended or they were searching for a different kind of high, many first-time users of heroin were already hooked on these kinds of drugs.
  • Impaired judgement at a party: Whether it’s a massive party or just a small gathering of friends, outside pressure can result in first-time use. This is especially common when the potential user is already under the influence of other substances, whether it’s alcohol, cocaine, or prescription drugs. According to the CDC, more than 90% of people who used heroin also used at least one other drug.

A major selling point of heroin is the cost. In a nationwide survey on heroin and heroin users, researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis analyzed data from more than 150 drug treatment centers across the U.S. and from surveys completed by more than 9,000 patients dependent on opioids. According to principal investigator Theodore J. Cicero, PhD., prescription painkillers can cost up to $80 on the street, while a similar dose of heroin might only cost $10.

Along with the cost, the researchers noted that accessibility, enjoyment of the high, and the ease of use were key factors in user’s decision to use heroin. One of the more often-abused prescription painkillers, OxyContin, was reformulated in 2010 to be more difficult to crush or dissolve. Cicero noted that while those changes made it harder to snort or inject OxyContin, some users simply switched to heroin.

“If you make abuse-deterrent formulations of these drugs and make it harder to get high, these people aren’t just going to stop using drugs,” said Cicero. “As we made it more difficult to use one drug, people simply migrated to another.”

With more than 8,200 people dying from a heroin-related overdose in 2013 — nearly quadruple the count from 2002 — understanding the causes behind how addiction starts is an important step towards getting treatment for heroin addiction. Here at Turning Point, we offer treatment programs that help patients detox from heroin. With multiple locations across New Jersey, you don’t need to go far to get the quality treatment you need. Contact us today to get started on your road to recovery.

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