As the acting community mourns the death of Philip Seymour Hoffman after a heroin overdose, the USA is facing an even greater opium related problem. While The USA struggles with its heroin problem, prescription drugs known as opioids are doing far more damage. Opioids are chemically very similar to drugs like heroin but they are killing 5 times more Americans than heroin.
These drugs are often prescribed for pain and can be very addictive. Many of the people who become addicted to opioids are not your traditional junkies. These are people who were prescribed opium based painkillers and developed an addiction. Other people who become addicted may have been sold opioid painkillers illicitly. Some drug dealers even use opioids to cut their heroin.
To fight this new wave of opioid addiction, government and law enforcement agencies are cracking down on pill mills and making it harder for people to doctor shop. While this seems to be preventing new users from abusing opioids, it has had unintentional consequences for those already addicted.
As new laws and regulations make opioids more expensive and harder to find, some addicts are switching to cheaper and more readily available heroin. This has some health officials worried that prescription opioids may become a gateway drug that leads users to heroin. This may have been the case for Philip Seymour Hoffman, who admitted to relapsing into his heroin habit after taking prescription painkillers.
Other drug users may try opioids because they believe them to be safer. They believe these drugs are cleaner because they come from a doctor and are made by pharmaceutical companies. While this might ensure a drugs purity, it does not make it any safer.
With the opioid problem growing and fuelling heroin addiction, The Whitehouse is asking local police departments to outfit their officers with anti-overdose medication. This can help save a person’s life if they have overdosed on heroin. While this is not a complete solution, officials hope it will save lives until a more permanent fix can be found.