New NIDA Study on Increase in Heroin Use
A National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIH) article highlights findings recently published in The New England Journal of Medicine. The study determined that new opioid prescription policies which more carefully regulate the prescribing of opioids have not directly led to a rise in heroin use over the last few years.
Researchers found that an individual’s transition to heroin occurred before the newer policies were in place including the implementation of prescription drug monitoring programs.
The study states that people who use opioids for “non-medical” reasons rarely use heroin and that the transition to heroin from prescription opioids occurs at a low rate. This conclusion seems to differ from the recent perception among some industry veterans that a tightening in opioid prescriptions had led, in part, to an increase in the use of heroin. As physician prescription practices have come under increased scrutiny, it was believed that the scarcity of prescription opioids was leading some people to turn to heroin in order to cope with intense opioid withdrawal.
Dr. Wilson Compton of NIDA and other scientists involved in the research cited above emphasized the need for improved approaches to treating opioid addiction including the use of medication-assisted treatments. This included greater use of naloxone as well in preventing opioid overdose deaths. Naloxone has been profiled in mass media since 2012 as a result of thousands of lives having been saved by the quick administration of naloxone following opioid overdose.