En español
NIDA

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 June 2018

Get this Publication

Ordering Publications

Call 1-877-643-2644 or:
NIDA Drug Pubs
Cite this article

NIDA. (2018, June 8). Heroin. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/heroin

press ctrl+c to copy
NIDA Notes: The Latest in Drug Abuse Research

​Research Reports

This series of reports simplifies the science of research findings for the educated lay public, legislators, educational groups, and practitioners. The series reports on research findings of national interest.

Lesson Plan and Activity Finder