The pharmaceutical drug, OxyContin, is referred to as “Hillbilly Heroin.” While the name is silly, there is actually some truth to the term.
Opiates are drugs created to reduce pain, among other things, in patients reporting severe or chronic physical pain. Heroin is obviously not used in a doctor’s office or prescribed by a physician, but the fully synthetic version, oxycodone, manufactured in the form of OxyContin (and others like Vicodin, Percocet and Norco), are dispensed at alarmingly high rates.
OxyContin abuse and opiate abuse is a problem of epidemic proportions. Hillbilly Heroin is on the rise.
Prescription Drug Abuse:
Abusing a prescription drug is defined as the use of any pharmaceutical in ways other than how a doctor specifically prescribed it for you to use. Taking someone else’s pills, or taking your own pills for non-medical reasons (i.e. to get high and to kill all pain), is drug abuse. Someone taking a couple pills for back pain may find it very tempting to take more pills than medically necessary, and then very difficult to stop taking them once abuse has begun.
Opiates are highly addictive substances. Physical and psychological dependence develop quickly, meaning the body and the brain become accustomed to having the drug in its system. The complete lack of pain experienced when taking an prescription opiate painkiller doesn’t help matters. When pills are stopped, pain feels excruciating and withdrawal symptoms are painful.
Back to Hillbilly Heroin:
OxyContin is the ultimate form of an abused prescription opiate. The drug provides the same euphoria to its users that heroin does, without the stigma of being a junkie, but the drugs are not fundamentally different. The irony of the name, “Hillbilly Heroin” is that the heaviest use of the various pill forms of oxycodone is happening in cities and suburbs.
For young people, the first exposure to pills is happening in their own homes. Parents, grandparents, and other relatives, who have been given an appropriate opiate prescription, do not use all the pills, and have some left in a bottle in the home. Kids may not be purposively looking, but they come across a pill and take it. Other kids, and teenagers, may be curious about the effects of opiates, having heard about the euphoria from friends, so they may go searching through medicine cabinets and anywhere else prescription bottles are stored.
Even finding 10 pills can start a young person off on the track of Hillbilly Heroin abuse. The potential for the development of physical and psychological dependence is high, especially as the young mind is still forming.
Carmelo Cinqueonce, executive vice president of the Massachusetts Pharmacists Association, shared his concerns on the rise of Hillbilly Heroin. In his words, “I’ve never seen a drug on the market for so short a time abused to the degree that OxyContin has been. Because of the potency of the drug, people are becoming much more harmfully involved much sooner.”
What Can We Do?
Education, prevention, intervention, and treatment are the ways to battle opiate addiction.
Recognizing the earliest signs of drug abuse can prevent the progression to addiction.
Do you see changes in your teen, or anyone in your life, that may indicate substance abuse? Changes in behavior, demeanor, friends, performance at school or at work? Educating parents, teachers, and kids on the dangers of drug abuse helps prevent further cases, but young people are still experimenting with opiates and other drugs.
Intervention to facilitate treatment saves lives.
The staff at Balboa Horizons excels at assessing, determining the best course of treatment, and developing an individual treatment plan to address all presenting symptoms for each client. Call now to find out more!