Most heroin addicts didn’t start with Rx pain pills

The White House drug czar is wrong: Most heroin addicts didn’t start with prescribed pain pills – Written by  /  – July 2019

As part of its campaign to stem opioid addiction and overdoses, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP — the drug czar’s office) has launched an education campaign called The Truth About Opioids, but some of the material it is presenting has more than a whiff of spin to it — and could imperil the ability of pain patients to get the relief they need.

I’m furious that they call it “the Truth” when it only spreads the big lie about the overdose crisis being from prescribed pain medications.

The website declares in big, bold letters that “80% of heroin users started with a prescription painkiller, [NOT!] and highlights the words “80%,” “heroin,” “started,” and “prescription” in lurid purple.   

The graphic suggests that heroin users were prescribed opioids, developed a habit, and then went on to junk, with the further implication that a way to reduce heroin addiction is to tighten and reduce the prescribing of opioids.

only if readers scroll down the page that they are informed that the basis for the statistic is a 2013 study of “Heroin use and heroin use risk behaviors among nonmedical users of prescription opioid pain relievers.” (Emphasis added.)

That’s right, even though the graphic shouts out that people prescribed opioids then went on to become heroin addicts, the science it uses to back its claim is about recreational pain pill users.

That’s deceptive.

I’m disgusted how our government and its agents are ignorantly pushing a lie upon the public, ignoring the latest reports from NIDA (the agency specifically tasked to collect “drug abuse” data), and clinging to studies of old data that show what they want.

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) cited that 80 percent figure last year when it ordered steep decreases in the supply of prescription opioids, and it claimed in the Federal Register that patients got addicted “after first obtaining these drugs from their health care providers.

I’m so sick of hearing this lie repeated along with the one about the U.S. consuming 80% of the world’s opioids. It seems people naturally gravitate to an 80/20 split, which is the basis for the Pareto Principle:

From Wikipedia: Mathematically, the 80/20 rule is roughly followed by a power law distribution (also known as a Pareto distribution) for a particular set of parameters, and many natural phenomena have been shown empirically to exhibit such a distribution

But it’s the mindless repetition that makes it “real” to people when they hear it from many people in many places.

And now, a new study from researchers at Penn State University published in the Journal of Addictive Studies.

Concentrating on southwestern Pennsylvania, an area with high levels of addiction, the researchers conducted surveys and in-depth interviews with drug users to determine their drug-using histories. The sample size was small, with 125 people surveyed and 30 interviewed, but the results were illuminating.

This new study debunks the myth that the opioid crisis was driven primarily by doctors’ prescriptions.

The researchers found that two out of three of those interviewed got their first prescription opioids not from a doctor’s prescription, but either bought or stole them from a family member or friend. Another 7 percent bought their drugs from a stranger or a dealer. And only one out of four (26 percent) began with opioid medications prescribed by a doctor.

There’s a big difference between “prescription opioids” and “prescribed opioids” but it’s being conflated to cast more blame on pain patients.

When someone overdoses with “Rx opioids” it doesn’t mean they were prescribed for that person, but the media ignores this “detail” to promote the “innocent victim of opioid prescription” narrative.

“We found that most people initiated through a pattern of recreational use because of people around them. They got them from either siblings, friends or romantic partners,” he continued.

“Participants repeatedly reported having a peer or caregiver in their childhood who had a substance use problem. Stories from childhood of witnessing one of these people selling, preparing, or using drugs were very common. Being exposed to others’ substance use at an early age was often cited as a turning point for OMI (opioid misuse) and of drug use in general.”

Among study participants, recreational drug use—or polysubstance abuse, in public health speak—was common, Verdery noted, and usually began not with prescription opioids but with drugs such as alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine, and prescription sedatives and stimulants.

“It is important to note that interviewees universally reported initiating OMI (opioid misuse) only after previously starting their substance use career with another drug (e.g., alcohol, marijuana, cocaine).

Opioids were never the first drug used, suggesting that OMI is likely associated with being further along in one’s drug using career,” he added.

I’m so glad to see in print that prescribed opioids were never the first drug for heroin users.

Researchers studying opioid addiction need to be aware of the role other substances play in the process, Verdery said. Understanding how opioid addiction is intertwined with other drug use is necessary to figure out the correct steps to take to prevent addiction before it takes hold.

This truth is obvious to pain patients, but so many supposedly smart people haven’t figured it out. The first recreational drug used by 99.99% of people abusing opioids was alcohol because it’s everywhere.

It’s not nice for the drug czar’s office to promulgate deceptive and misleading information about why people are getting strung out on heroin. It results both in limitation on access to opioid pain medications for those who need them and in obfuscating the realities of how heroin addiction happens—and how best to deal with it

2 thoughts on “Most heroin addicts didn’t start with Rx pain pills

  1. GZB

    I’ve written to my reps repeatedly about this very thing. I always get stone walled. They are going to use the clickbait value of these lies for as long as they can.

    Liked by 1 person


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