Painkiller addiction can lead to heroin use

Painkiller addiction can lead to heroin use »Play Video
Photo courtesy of Flickr user dkalo

EUGENE, Ore. - The people who seek help at Serenity Lane treatment center have changed.

"Very rarely do we see a true alcoholic anymore," said John Johnston with Serenity Lane.

Now most of their patients are addicted to opiates.

"That's what's killing people in Lane County," Johnston said.

Many users start out with legally prescribed painkillers, like Percocet and Oxycontin.

While they may be prescribed by a doctor, there's also a lot of abuse.

And when people addicted to the opiates in painkillers can't get access to prescription drugs, they often turn to a similar street drug:

Heroin.

"Women overdoses across the country from heroin - deaths - have gone up 400 percent," Johnston said.

The majority of people using heroin are 18 to 25 year olds, he said.

The might start out on painkillers.

"Eventually that becomes prohibitively expensive, so they turn to the street for a cheaper high," Johnston said, "which is heroin."

Eugene's location on the Interstate 5 corridor makes it an easy place to get drugs.

"People are always like, 'Do you want to smoke crystal? Do you want to smoke weed?'" said high school student Jordan Raneri.

Johnston said hard drugs are being brought to school, but many young adults get their first "opiate fix" from home medicine cabinets.

"Don't necessarily look at what the drug can do for you," he cautioned, "but what it can do to you."