Does everyone who develops an addiction to prescription painkillers move on to heroin?

Not everyone who uses prescription painkillers does or will use heroin. However, a survey of opioid users in Philadelphia indicated that more than half of the respondents reported using pills before 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.