ST. LOUIS (KMOX) – A new Washington University study attempts to find out why drug abusers are switching to heroin.
It’s the relatively low cost, when compared to prescription painkillers.
“Oxycotin, the big drug of the 90s, was selling for up to $1 per milligram,” says lead researcher Dr. Theodore Cicero. “So, for an 80mg tablet, it was $80. They could get heroin for $10.”
As a result of the switch, Cicero says there are a lot more heroin deaths and overdoses now, as users go from taking specific amounts of tightly controlled drugs to snorting or dissolving powder that isn’t always pure, and may be much stronger than anticipated.
Cicero says another reason is the introduction of abuse-deterrent formulations of prescription painkillers, which made pills harder to crush and more difficult to dissolve. That also made them tougher for users to snort or inject.
“We didn’t anticipate this shift, and we certainly didn’t anticipate a shift to heroin,” he says.
It’s resulted in an entirely new group of people now hooked on heroin.
“From the police perspective and from the enforcement perspective, they don’t really have a good handle about who these people are,” he says. “We don’t know too much about the users of these drugs—they’re not like the old users—and we don’t know too much about the dealers.”
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