Jul 18, 2014 3:40 PM by Annie Snead

Prescription pain med abusers turning to heroin

Doctors say it could happen to anyone, an addiction to pain pills that can lead to something more.
Pain killers are easy to get initially, but when prescriptions run dry, some turn to heroin.
Doctors say no one ever intends to become addicted to heroin or pain pills to begin with but there are millions of us who use pain relief of some sort and sometimes we think since it's prescribed by a doctor-- it's safe.
"These are not your stereotypical addicts, these are you and me," said Bonna Machlan, a substance abuse clinician at AspenPointe.
Even people who have never abused a substance before can become addicted to prescription pain relievers.
"Prescription drug abuse right now is a major problem in all of the United States," said Machlan.
"I've known people with no history of addiction that have been placed on pain killers for legitimate pain reasons and began to misuse the drug because they felt more pain," she said.
She says after people get addicted to those pain killers heroin can become the next step, and it's cheaper.
"Half of young adults who inject heroin started out using opiates to get high, they used pain killers to get high," she added.
The addiction is very subtle in a lot of cases.
Machlan says it's costing the tax payers billions of dollars.
"The ER's are seeing an influx of people," she said.
Doctor Ross Patrick works in the emergency department at Parkview Medical Center.
He says addiction can start very quickly with narcotic medications.
"Often times they're not able to meet their needs for the prescription medications on the street or through a physician provider and they end up moving on to street drugs," said Dr. Patrick.
"Not everybody is going to switch to heroin and a lot of people will fight through the withdrawals," he said.
And everyone is different. if you or your family has a history of addiction you're more likely to become addicted yourself.
"We don't see the numbers of people seeking medications as we used to, we realized that this was becoming a huge issue, not only in Pueblo but all across the nation," he said.
He says the American College and the American Academy of Emergency Physicians have tried to decrease the numbers of medications prescribed.
"What we've noticed is, as we've banned together locally to combat the issue, we don't see as many people coming in seeking medications as what we used to," said Patrick.
Doctors say take medication as directed and if you start to feel achy or anxious or feel like you have to take more.. these are all warning signs that you could soon get addicted-- and to seek professional help.


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