Do Painkillers Cause Heroin Addiction?

Why Do People Move to Heroin After Prescription Opioid Use?

The nation is in the midst of an opioid epidemic with no end in sight. Families have been torn apart by this disease, and the number of people struggling with an opioid use disorder continues to rise exponentially.

Most people see the impact of this debilitating disease on a daily basis, whether in the form of loved ones struggling to break free from its grip, or the expanding number of social influencers and celebrities losing their lives to an opioid addiction.

As someone watching from the outside as opioids eat away at your loved one’s health and happiness, understanding the origins of their disease and how it has progressed so dramatically is the best way to help them through their addiction.

How Your Loved One Got Addicted in the First Place

Most people living with an opioid use disorder began their substance use innocent enough, perhaps through a viable prescription for pain medication, or taking a few pills from a friend for mild pain and discomfort.

From there, the drug took root, driving them to consume more of the substance in order to achieve the desired effects and control their level of distress.

Before they knew it, they were out of their prescriptions and searching for alternative methods of achieving their high. The only place they had left was back street connections and illegal opioid substitutes.

Without a steady stream of prescription medication, and no doctor willing to provide any further assistance, these people were forced to consider heroin use due to its accessibility and relatively cheap cost.

In short, this is how so many people find themselves addicted to heroin nowadays, lost in an opioid use disorder that was initiated by their physician who improperly prepared them for the long-term effects of opioid ingestion.

Regardless of how your loved one began their addiction, understanding their disease and how to help them begin their journey to recovery is an essential element to helping them break free from their addiction and live a long, healthy life.

Prescription Opioids to Heroin: What You Need to Know

According to the CDC, nearly 50% of all people struggling with a heroin addiction began their opioid use through prescription opioid painkillers.

While the dangers of prescription painkillers are nothing new, the general consensus among the medical communities to prescribe them so readily has been the catalyst in the surge of opioid addictions, heroin addictions and opioid-induced overdose deaths over the past 10 years.

Needless to say, this practice has finally begun to see a turnaround, with physicians prescribing smaller doses and quantities of prescription opioid painkillers. Unfortunately, significant damage has already been done.

Those who became addicted to their pain medication were forced to achieve sobriety very quickly or search for alternative opioid sources to address their medically-initiated substance use disorder.

Unfortunately, heroin proved to be the most cost effective and readily available opioid on the market. It’s not hard to see how the increased number of prescription opioid painkiller recipients became the increased number of heroin users in a very short amount of time, leaving families and friends searching for ways to help their loved ones safely address their new heroin addiction.1

Do Painkillers Lead to Heroin Use?

Nearly all people who have struggled or are struggling with a heroin use disorder began their drug use with an alternative substance. Below is a quick example of varying substance use and their impact on developing a potential heroin addiction:

People who are addicted to…

  • Marijuana are three times more likely to be addicted to heroin
  • Cocaine are fifteen times more likely to be addicted to heroin
  • Prescription painkillers are forty times more likely to be addicted to heroin

Steps to avoid these scenarios and decrease the number of people experiencing excessive opioid exposure include:

  • Making prescription drug monitoring programs timely and easy to use
  • Increasing access to substance abuse treatment services
  • Identifying and reducing inappropriate prescribing practices

These steps can work to curb excessive opioid distribution and provide those people struggling with addictive impulses with viable treatment options to address the symptoms associated with their substance use disorder.2

Regardless of how you support your loved one, being there for them throughout their recovery journey is essential to them achieving sobriety and sustaining their personal health and individual success.

Holistic Heroin Addiction Treatment at Ranch Creek Recovery

Overcoming a heroin addiction is no simple task, but with the right treatment facility and clinical staff, all things are possible. Regardless of where your loved one’s heroin addiction has landed them, they can stop their addiction and get their entire life back on track.

At Ranch Creek Recovery, your loved one’s precise recovery needs are our main priority; their successful recovery and sober re-entry into society is our utmost mission. Our heroin abuse treatment program delivers all-encompassing methodologies of medical and physical treatment, psychology, holistic and experiential therapies, and preparation to forge the drug free future your loved one desires.

Learn more about our heroin addiction treatment program.

Have questions? We’re here to help. Contact us today.


1 Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Today’s Heroin Epidemic. Accessed April 10, 2019.

2 Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Heroin Overdose Data. Accessed April 10, 2019.