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Medical News & Perspectives |

SAMHSA: Pain Medication Abuse a Common Path to Heroin:  Experts Say This Pattern Likely Driving Heroin Resurgence

Bridget M. Kuehn, MSJ
JAMA. 2013;310(14):1433-1434. doi:10.1001/jama.2013.278861.
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“I swore I would never use a needle,” is a common refrain that physician Marc Fishman, MD, hears from young patients in treatment for opioid addiction.

But many of his patients who began their drug use with prescription pain medications do indeed surprise themselves by resorting to injection heroin use. The switch often comes when they are struggling with withdrawal and requiring higher doses to ease their symptoms and can no longer afford to purchase pain medications, which have a far higher price on the illegal drug market.

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Heroin use has increased substantially in the United States, from about 373 000 in 2007 to 620 000 in 2011. This trend mirrors rising use and abuse of prescription pain medications.

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