NIDA claims that a good number of people try prescription pain relievers experimentally, and then continue to use them because they enjoy the feelings they bring. Many unwittingly become addicted to them, and later turn to heroin to mimic the same feelings whenever they are no longer able to obtain these medications.
The problem is apparently becoming more serious as time goes on. NIDA reports that only five percent of people who were considered dependent on pain medicines tried heroin in 2004, but that the percentage had increased to 14% by 2010. The number of emergency room admissions due to heroin use is also on the rise, and exceeded 250,000 visits in 2011.
While many people believe taking prescription pain killers is nothing serious, these statistics show otherwise. Efforts are currently underway to learn more about the connection between these two drugs in an effort to limit heroin abuse. In the meantime, those who have been prescribed pain killers should use them only as directed and for the shortest amount of time possible. That way, they can avoid becoming dependent on them, and will be less likely to try something more powerful such as heroin in the future.