People Are Using More Heroin Because It's Cheaper Than Painkillers

Categories: Drugs

cookin_up_heroin.JPG
wikimedia/hendrike
Doing heroin just makes good economic sense.
A new study conducted by Wash. U. says that an increasing number of drug addicts simply can't afford fancy painkillers like Vicodin and OxyContin anymore, so they're switching to a cheaper alternative: heroin.

Dr. Theodore J. Cicero and his team based the findings on data collected between 2010 and 2013 from 150 drug-treatment centers across the country, which included surveys completed by 9,000 painkiller addicts. They found that 2,800 of these patients said heroin was their primary drug. But the researchers found that in many cases, it wasn't because the patients wanted it.

"Heroin has now been cleverly marketed by dealers as a cheaper and more accessible alternative," Cicero, a psychiatrist who studies opioid addiction, tells Daily RFT. "Interestingly, most people don't want heroin as their drug of choice, but can't afford their preferred opioid of choice."

See also: Are Mexican Drug Cartels "Marketing" Heroin to Pain-Killer Addicts in St. Louis?

Cicero notes that the street value of painkillers like OxyContin can reach $1 per milligram. And with an average dose being between 30 and 60 milligrams, getting high off these drugs is a pricey endeavor.

Meanwhile, the price of heroin runs for about $10 a shot. So it's a pretty easy choice for many addicts.

Although abusing painkillers is not necessarily better than abusing heroin, Cicero says that a drawback of using the latter is that, unlike with pills, it's nearly impossible to know the dosage.

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Dr. Theodore Cicero

"People who take the pills know how much they're taking because it's usually clearly marked on the pill," Cicero says. "But with heroin, there's just no way of determining the potency."

Economics plays the biggest role in the increase of heroin use, but it's not the only factor. New pill forms designed to combat abuse make it more difficult to dissolve pills to shoot up or crush them to snort. Also -- and this might be the biggest factor after economics -- is that the stigma of heroin use is not as negative as it used to be.

See also: Judge Who Bought Heroin "Daily" Faces 18 Months; His Dealer Gets 10 Years

The suburban youth who would steal their parents' painkillers and would justify their addiction by telling themselves, "At least I'm not using heroin" are no longer opposed to chasing the dragon because their friends are doing it, too.

"It used to be you have to drive to the inner city, but now the dealers are a whole new breed of people: white, middle-class kids with plenty of supply," Cicero says. "It's a whole new scene."

Of course, people in the St. Charles area already know this. Heroin use has been a topic of concern there for the past few years as overdose incidents have risen. The average user today is 23, white, and from a suburban or rural area. This is in contrast to past decades when the average user was a minority from the inner city. And now that a new group of people are heroin, the issue is getting more attention, Cicero explains.

See also: Heroin: O'Fallon Mom Speaks of Daughter's Overdose, Rallies Against "The Silent Killer"

"Heroin use is becoming more of a mainstream problem," he says. "It used to be an element of the city that used to be easy to ignore in a cynical sort of way. Now, however, it's become a problem in white suburban areas. But it should have been a concern all along."

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E-mail him at Ray.Downs@RiverfrontTimes.com.

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31 comments
Kristina Starr
Kristina Starr

A young adult male, white, about 22 years old just died of an overdose right around the corner of where we live in Webster Groves. It has been a big problem here that a lot of people don't want to talk about. For many of these kids it started with the snorting of "beans" or what some call hillbilly heroine. The next step has been shooting, and for many death. Don't pretend it won't happen to your kids, their friends, or someone you know. Keep the conversation open with your kids and explain that they have to set absolute boundaries now, not later when they are with friends who start experimenting. We know our kids will try things. They need to understand the clear difference of things without threatening them. Believe it or not, they are listening to some of what we say, even if we get the eye roll. Scares the shit out of me as a parent, but not enough to bury my head in the sand and pretend it can't happen to my kids.

Angela Marie Graves
Angela Marie Graves

If they would just legalize marijuana for pain suffers, they wouldn't need to use painkillers, and especially heroin. But then again, heroin is an easy way for our government to have population control without seeming like they are directly involved.

Gregory Adam
Gregory Adam

Bullshit, people are using heroin because they a dumb Fucks lol

Nate Oatis
Nate Oatis

Erich Lenway it's definitely the blacks fault...way to nail it on the head ya fuckin douche...

Rebecca Wagner Smith
Rebecca Wagner Smith

Among former pill poppers the stigma is not as negative as it used to be. People who can't get pills are doing heroin because they can.

Cody Bippen
Cody Bippen

Can we admit this is a health issue and not a criminal issue already? Enough chasing tails.. Let's close the loop.

Deena Staggs
Deena Staggs

Heroin is a Demon drug! There is a huge epidemic in our own city..and more and mire people are succumbing to It's death grip! It's sad to see so many people in the midst of the disease of addiction because if this shit! I have seen first hand what it does to destroy lives..it grips It's claws in you and you can't escape.. No, I nevet done it myself, but my boyfriend was addicted..and he overdosed in front if me.. I was unable to revive him, and he died in my arms! Watching someone you love die right in front of you on your time is an image and memory that can never be erased and will forever haunt me! :-\

Laurie Catanzaro-Vanover
Laurie Catanzaro-Vanover

Herion kills. Meth kills. Ive known lots of people who went to prison and lost everything due to thos stupid drugs. Just sad

Lace King
Lace King

Yup, same here, class of 09. More pill deaths than heroin, but many of those still alive are doing methadone and heroin.

Lace King
Lace King

Yup. I've seen it up close and personal far too much. Lost a solid dozen+ of kids I went to school with (class of 09) to pills, and those who are still alive aren't afraid to do Heroin these days. It's cheaper AND more potent.

Douglas Ryan Heberer
Douglas Ryan Heberer

If your stupid enough to ever try heroin, even once, you get what you deserve. People OD from this all the time, even high school kids are dropping like flies from this. Whatever happened to just smoking weed to get high? At least that won't kill you...

Couch Pig
Couch Pig

I like to smoke crack instead of taking viagra

Heather Schuchmann
Heather Schuchmann

And then they go to gator heroin that eats your tissue away from the inside out because it's even cheaper they will do anything for a fix

Erich Lenway
Erich Lenway

Blacks from st louis city is the reason why it's in st louis and st charles county.

Genia Ackworth
Genia Ackworth

The same population that said they weren't drug addicts because their pills weren't from the streets. Hmmmmmm

Laura Dee
Laura Dee

Totally agree! Just because the stigma and fear surrounding marijuana is finally lifting doesn't mean it is for all illegal narcotics. Some drugs are worse than others. Heroin is one of the worst.

Leslee Brown
Leslee Brown

So stupid. My brother died from an overdose. What a waste

Jason M Parker
Jason M Parker

Let's ask all the heroin addicts over age 35 how life turned out for....oh wait

Alexandra Lugger
Alexandra Lugger

It's mind boggling how many people my age (some I went to school with at Parkway Central and graduated in 2007) have passed from heroine overdoses. So sad :-( but it's not like DARE tells us, "Hey kids! Heroine is awesome!" so they know better. http://www.not-even-once.com/memorials.html

Scott Tyler
Scott Tyler

Seriously? You're going to tell people that "Doing heroin just makes good economic sense." This has to be the worst post in the history of the RFT. And that's damn hard to do .

redcupmusik
redcupmusik

greg your and idiot. the evidence is clear angela is right we got o IRAQ 2001 HEROIN EPIDEMIC Begins its population control .. except they fucked up and its killing innocent kids.

redcupmusik
redcupmusik

your and idiot.. Its Cartels and US government is why its everywhere. them "blacks" dont know any other way to make money so dont blame them you fucking pathetic racist moron.

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