Out of Oxy? Turn to Heroin Instead


In what may be one of the scariest trends since the rise of prescription drug abuse, addicts who cannot obtain their preferred drug are finding heroin a ready substitute and making the switch.

Pushing heroin

The reasons for the rise in heroin use among drug users are thought to be both economic and built into the drug landscape itself. The pathway to heroin seems to rely on several recent developments in the illegal supply chain. Some are outlined in the latest National Drug Threat Assessment.

  • * Tightening of restrictions on prescription drugs that abusers prefer, such as Vicodin and Oxycontin. This lessens the supply of these drugs, raises the prices and makes heroin a competitive option for those who crave an opiate.
  • * Lowered availability of cocaine, especially from Columbia. Drug networks already in place need another product to sell and heroin is available.

  • * Increased heroin production in Mexico. Up ten-fold in the last decade, this increased production uses the same land routes as methamphetamine and marijuana, as well as a distribution network that reaches across the US.
  • * A willingness of prescription drug abusers to try the cheaper, more available product and snort it in the same manner they were doing with pills.

Rx as a gateway to heroin

It may be misleading to think of prescription drug abuse as a direct gateway to heroin, however, when prescription opiates are hard to find, the switch isn’t difficult for many users. Heroin is an opiate and has many of the same effects as Oxycontin and other painkillers, except the effects are tremendously enhanced. The difficulty comes when they try to switch back.

Heroin provides a much stronger rush and a longer lasting effect, even when it is only snorted. It also has a much higher addiction potential. These factors combine to make it very difficult for those who’ve experimented with the drug to go back to prescription opiates. This also gives dealers a reason to push heroin – customer loyalty.

One user's story tells a tale of sending someone out to buy Oxy and getting heroin instead. Although they, like many, thought of heroin as a “low class” drug and never imagined themselves trying it, the circumstances were right. Unfortunately, this same story is being repeated across the US, with heroin overdose numbers skyrocketing in parts of the country that never saw much of a problem before.

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