Health care providers wrote 259 million prescriptions for opioid pain medications in 2012 – enough for every American adult to have a bottle of pills. Opioids are a class of prescription pain medications that includes hydrocodone, oxycodone, morphine, and methadone. Heroin belongs to the same class of drugs, and four in five heroin users started out by misusing prescription opioid pain medications.
Accordingly to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, in 2010 almost 1 in 20 adolescents and adults – 12 million people – used prescription pain medication when it was not prescribed for them or only for the feeling it caused. While many believe these drugs are not dangerous because they can be prescribed by a doctor, abuse often leads to dependence. And eventually, for some, pain medication abuse leads to heroin.