-- Robert Preidt
THURSDAY, Aug. 22 (HealthDay News) -- Illegal use of
prescription pain drugs increases a person's risk of becoming a
heroin user, a U.S. government report suggests.
The researchers found that Americans aged 12 to 49 who had used
prescription pain relievers illegally were 19 times more likely to
have started using heroin within the past year than other people in
that age group.
Nearly 80 percent of people who recently started using heroin
had previously used prescription pain relievers illegally, the U.S.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration report
It also noted, however, that only 3.6 percent of people who had
illegally used prescription pain medicines started using heroin
within five years.
"Prescription pain relievers, when used properly for their intended purpose, can be of enormous benefit to patients, but their nonmedical use can lead to addiction, serious physical harm and even death," Dr. Peter Delany, director of SAMHSA's Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, said in an agency news release.
"This report shows that it can also greatly increase an individual's risk of turning to heroin use -- thus adding a new dimension of potential harm," Delany said.
The number of Americans who reported that they used heroin in
the past 12 months rose from 373,000 in 2007 to 620,000 in 2011.
During the same period, the number of people who reported heroin
addiction in the past 12 months increased from 179,000 to 369,000,
and the number of people who started using heroin for the first
time in the past 12 months climbed from 106,000 to 178,000.
Between 2008 and 2011, the number of people who started using
heroin increased among adults aged 18 to 49, but there was no
change in the rate among youths aged 12 to 17. During the same
period, there was an increase in the number of people with annual
incomes of less than $50,000 who started using heroin, the report
The number of people who started using heroin in the past 12
months rose sharply in all regions of the nation except in the
South, where the rate stayed the lowest in the country. Blacks were
less likely than other racial and ethnic groups to start using
The U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse has more about
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