Teens' Opioid Abuse May Be Gateway to Heroin

Jim Liebelt

*The following is excerpted from an online article posted on HealthDay.

Teens who take prescription opioid painkillers to get high could be taking a step toward heroin use, researchers say.

"Prescription opioids and heroin activate the brain's pleasure circuit in similar ways," said senior author Adam Leventhal. He's director of the Institute for Addiction Science at the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine.

"Teens who enjoy the 'high' from prescription opioids could be more inclined to seek out other drugs that produce euphoria, including heroin," he explained in a university news release.

The new study included nearly 3,300 students at 10 Los Angeles-area high schools who were followed from freshman year to senior year.

Nearly 600 students reported using prescription opioids -- such as OxyContin and Vicodin -- to get high during the first 3.5 years of high school.

The researchers found that about 13% of current prescription opioid users and nearly 11% of previous prescription opioid users went on to use heroin by the end of high school.

Only 1.7% of teens who did not use prescription opioids to get high had tried heroin by the end of high school, according to the study. The results were published in JAMA Pediatrics.

Source: HealthDay