Pennsylvania and the United States as a whole are currently fighting one of the worst epidemics in recent years: prescription drug abuse. Overdose deaths from prescription painkillers have quadrupled since 1999, and Pennsylvania has a higher overdose rate than most other states (“Prescription Drug FAQ”). The most commonly abused prescription drugs are opiates. Opiates usually come in pill form and are prescribed to reduce pain. Some common opiates are Vicodin, Morphine, Fentanyl, and Codeine, which all can lead to heroin use (“Prescription Drugs & Cold Medicines”). As painkillers become less freely available to abusers, many turn to using heroin because it is cheaper and easier to find. An average of three out of four heroin users report having abused prescription painkillers prior to ever using heroin (“Prescription Drug FAQ”).
Prescription painkillers and heroin effect the brain in similar ways, which can lead a person to addiction and overdose.