Shocking new research out of the University of Buffalo has revealed that popular prescription opioid medications are causing people to become addicted to street drugs. Once addicted, nearly half of patients prescribed opioid pain pills end up transitioning to street drugs like heroin because these drugs are generally cheaper and can be easier to obtain.
Of 75 patients hospitalized at Erie County Medical Center in Buffalo, New York, for detoxification, over 41 percent told their doctors that they became addicted to street drugs after being prescribed opioid medications — like methadone, oxycodone and fentanyl — by their doctors. Ninety-two percent of all patients in the program indicated that these prescription opioids actually led them to street drugs.
“This information suggests that there is a progressive nature to opioid use, and that prescription opioids can be the gateway to illicit drug addition,” explained Richard Blondell, M.D., professor of family medicine and senior author of the study, in a press release.
The majority of patients in the detoxification program first began taking prescription opioids for pain following injuries or surgeries. In other words, the legitimate use of prescription drugs prescribed to patients by their doctors is a leading cause of substance abuse.
To make matters worse, most doctors fail to even ask patients if they have ever had a substance abuse problem prior to writing them an opioid prescription. So many doctors are directly responsible for helping to induce drug addiction through their neglect and carelessness in monitoring patients.
Additionally, a 2009 study found that the majority of patients who die from opioid overdoses did so due to prescription opioids anyway, indicating that even if patients do not transition to street drugs, their health is still at risk from legal opioids.