War on Prescription Pain Killers Leads to More Heroin Deaths

Predictable news from the War on Drugs' Wide World of Easily Anticipated Bad Consequences, as reported in the Baltimore Sun:

As efforts to crack down on the abuse of prescription drugs have worked, a new problem has emerged, withaddicts who can no longer get their fix by popping pills turning to the old-fashioned street drug heroin....

"The kids who got addicted to prescription pills are flipping to heroin, and, as a result, these kids are dropping like flies," said Mike Gimbel, a longtime drug counselor in Baltimore County who now works at University of Maryland St. Joseph Medical Center.

The number of statewide deaths from heroin overdoses increased 41 percent in the first seven months of this year compared with 2011, the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene said Friday. There were 205 heroin-related overdose deaths in the first seven months of 2012, compared with 145 during the same period the year before.

Overdose deaths related to prescription opioids like oxycodone,hydrocodone and methadone declined by 15 percent, from 208 to 177 in the same periods. Overall drug overdose deaths rose 6 percent.

All in the pointless and stupid pursuit of making sure people don't willingly use prescription pain killers, a war whose heartlessness was brutally told in Jacob Sullum's Reason classic from 1997, "No Relief in Sight."

Mike Riggs blogged in July on how "Tightening the Rules on Oxycontin Pushes Abusers and Pain Sufferers Toward More Dangerous Drugs."

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • Almanian.||

    But they might get ADDICTED to prescription painkillers! And something something teh children something owe it to society!

    /statist

  • Almanian.||

    CAPTION!!! "Now, which one is my Flintstones Chewable vitamin...?"

  • $park¥||

    I don't care if people want to regularly consume their drug of choice, or any other stimulant if the first is not available, but you'll have to forgive my lack of sympathy for those who die doing it.

  • Killazontherun||

    Every junky is like a setting sun.

  • Brandon||

    You'll have to be sympathetic to my lack of forgiveness for being a heartless dick.

  • Hyperion||

    The kids who got addicted to prescription pills are flipping to heroin, and, as a result, these kids are dropping like flies

    Our eugenics program is working! Carry on! Just remember to keep around enough of those dirty colored people to vote and man the city garbage trucks.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Are they getting fixes or attempting to manage pain?

  • Hyperion||

    Does it matter? Illegal drugs are bad, Mmmkay? Pain and cancer are not excuses for breaking the law. We must have order!

  • ||

    Does it matter?

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    It does if you're reporting that they're getting fixes when that's not necessarily the case. Criminalizing pain management is an unfortunate side effect of a war on drugs that will only be ended partially with better information. Framing everyone as an unsympathetic addict is not helpful.

  • ShagNasty||

    Both. Alot of people get into opiates by doing perscription pain pills that get diverted into the black market, in large part due to the lack of super intimidating stigma that heroin has. Then when the government tightens up on the legal opiate supply, they switch to the smack cause its all they can get anymore.
    The opposite sorta thing also happens, where people that are legitimately in a fuckload of pain get their scrip cut off or get switched to weaker stuff and need to make up the difference. Also, alot of people with constant chronic pain, especially young people cant get a doc to perscribe them anything. The docs will just keep beating around the bush with stuff like "I'd like to persue other options." They'll perscribe you weak and useless muscle relaxers and maybe Tramadol if you're lucky. Docs just can't handle the scrutiny they come under if they actually provide young people with adequate pain treatment.

  • EDG reppin' LBC||

    Johnny Thunders & The Heartbreakers: One Track Mind/Too Much Junkie Business live.

  • sarcasmic||

    The pursuit happiness through the use of chemicals is immoral, and must be prohibited regardless of the consequences.

    These people who want to legalize drugs might as well be condoning other immoral acts such as theft, rape, and murder.

    Drugs are bad! Drug users are bad! Proponents of legalization are bad!

    Bad, bad, bad, bad, bad! Bad!

  • John||

    It should all be legal. But if you are too stupid to dose your heroin, what makes you think they could properly dose their pain pills? If we ended prohibition, some people really would kill themselves with drugs. Reason is not well served by pretending otherwise.

  • $park¥||

    This is one of those rare occasions where I agree with John.

  • Scarcity||

    Now what ever might be the difference in dosing a drug you buy in a black market versus one certified for purity and quantity in a legal market?

    Yes, may people are just gonna OD regardless, but there are people dying because they thought they were taking the same does and purity as last time when that wasn't actually the case.

  • R C Dean||

    Well, for one thing, heroin is not of uniform quality at all, so its difficult-to-impossible to dose it accurately. Big Pharma pills? E-Z dosing.

    Pushing people from Big Pharma pills to black market junk strikes me as likely to increase the fatality rate per addict. So I'm not seeing the logic that legalization will increase the death rate among current users.

    Now, will a meaningful number of new people turn into full-blown junkies if drugs are legalized? Maybe, but it strikes me as unlikely. Personally, I think the sort of person who will wreck their life over drugs will do so regardless of legality, so we won't see very many more of them at all.

    More users? Probably. More addicts wrecking their lives and ODing? Probably not many at all.

  • ShagNasty||

    Reason is not pretending that people wouldn't overdose on pain pills if they were legally avaliable to everyone. However statistical evidence, like that referenced in the article, indicates that overdoses are more frequent when Heroin is used than when pills are used, which makes perfect sense. If you have A 40mg OxyContin pill, you know that pill contains exactly 40 miligrams of oxycodone. If you have a "point" (0.1g) of street heroin, that could have anywhere between 0 and 100mg of heroin in it. It could be laced with stonger opiates like fentanyl. There have been documented cases of this happening. For this reason, it is reasonable to assume that less users would overdose if the stuff was legal, as the uncertainty would no longer be any issue.

  • Rights-Minimalist Autocrat||

    In addition, once it's injected, you can't un-inject it. That's why I'm in favor of opioid inhalers for Libertopia. You just inhale until the pain goes away. If you OD this way, you'll just pass out. Unless you somehow rig it so that you can still inhale it after you're unconscious.

  • Lord Humungus||

    Earlier this year I had an infected tooth. If I hadn't gotten pain killers - hello, Vicodin - for this malady, I would have easily taken a shot of smack. I've broken my ribs, busted my wrist, knuckles, been hit by various fists, feet and whatnot, but nothing compared to the sheer constant unrelenting agony of that infected tooth.

  • Number 2||

    "As efforts to crack down on the abuse of prescription drugs have worked...."

    So increased heroin deaths is a sign of success, like the Mexican drug violence.

  • Spoonman.||

    Foreseeable and intended consequence.

  • waaminn||

    Man why do governments even bother, jsut legalize it all!

    www.Got-Anonz.tk

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Progressive Puritans: From e-cigs to sex classifieds, the once transgressive left wants to criminalize fun.
  • Port Authoritarians: Chris Christie’s Bridgegate scandal
  • The Menace of Secret Government: Obama’s proposed intelligence reforms don’t safeguard civil liberties

SUBSCRIBE

advertisement