Are heroin and prescription painkillers basically the same thing? What’s the difference?

Prescription opioids and heroin affect the brain and body very similarly. Therefore, people who misuse or become addicted to prescription pain relievers may also develop problems with heroin. In interviews, people who switched from painkillers to heroin said they made the transition because painkillers became unavailable, because heroin is cheaper, and because they were desperate for relief from opiate withdrawal.

There is evidence that, as prescription painkillers become less freely available, heroin use is increasing. There has been a worrying rise in heroin deaths over the last few years. Nationally, heroin-related overdose deaths have increased by 425% since 2010.

We encourage Pennsylvanians to take steps to prevent non-medical use of prescription painkillers and, in so doing, to break the connection between heroin and prescription painkillers. Together, we can stop opioid addiction before it starts.