it was less expensive and more effective than prescription drugs.”

The overprescribing of opiate painkillers like OxyContin can lead to addiction, and “it happens extremely often,” Payne said. “You hear story after story about somebody having some sort of a medical procedure, and they were prescribed far more pills than they really needed. That’s a lot of times where it starts.”

OxyContin and other painkillers can easily become “gateway drugs”  to illicit substances like heroin, Payne said. Heroin and fentanyl-based compounds “are drugs that come after a dependency or an addiction to painkillers, specifically opiates,” he said.

When anonymously surveyed, most people abusing prescription drugs admitted that they most commonly get their hands on prescription drugs from their own family and their friends’ families in the beginning, Isaacson said. “That’s the most common way most people initially get their supply of prescription drugs. Obviously, in short order of that supply, it runs out, and then people need to go to the black market to buy their pills, and those pills are pretty expensive on the black market.”

Isaacson added that OxyContin was selling for as high as a dollar a milligram, making an 80-milligram pill very expensive.

The two primary reasons for the transition from opioid painkillers to heroin are pain and price.

“The body either develops a tolerance for said painkillers and begin to experience withdrawal, which is the number one thing that an addict fears the most,” Payne said. “Or they run out of money because a pill addiction is quite expensive.”

Opiate painkillers can sell for $1 a milligram, and sometimes even more, Payne said. “So, we’re talking about one 40-50 milligram pill, which isn’t going to get you very far, versus a $40 bag of heroin or fentanyl that can get you much further.”

Depending on a user’s tolerance, a gram of heroin can deliver up to 20 doses, and for many addicts, this is why they look for their next fix on the street rather than in a pharmacy.

“I’ve talked to a handful of opiate addicts that said they needed between 25 and 30 pills a day,” said Isaacson. “That becomes very expensive. So what happens, in your major metropolitan areas, is you can buy heroin from eight to twelve bucks a hit, and so people can buy their heroin much cheaper than a pill. They become an opiate addict with the pills, and then they switch to heroin because it’s cheaper.”

Heroin isn’t always just heroin

OxyContin is a laboratory-pure and laboratory-measured pharmaceutical, and heroin is usually mixed or cut with unknown and possibly deadly substances.

If an addict switches from OxyContin to heroin, they may not realize that the heroin they buy could vary in strength and levels of toxicity, which can lead to… (continue reading)