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Heroin

How is heroin linked to prescription drug misuse?

Image of prescription bottle of hydrocodone with pills spilled out. Photo by ©istock.com/smartstock

Harmful health consequences resulting from the misuse of opioid medications that are prescribed for the treatment of pain, such as Oxycontin®, Vicodin®, and Demerol®, have dramatically increased in recent years. For example, almost half of all opioid deaths in the U.S. now involve a prescription opioid. People often assume prescription pain relievers are safer than illicit drugs because they are medically prescribed; however, when these drugs are taken for reasons or in ways or amounts not intended by a doctor, or taken by someone other than the person for whom they are prescribed, they can result in severe adverse health effects including substance use disorder, overdose, and death, especially when combined with other drugs or alcohol. Research now suggests that misuse of these medications may actually open the door to heroin use. Some also report switching to heroin because it is cheaper and easier to obtain than prescription opioids.2-4

This page was last updated March 2018

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NIDA. (2018, March 28). Heroin. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/heroin

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