How to Wean Off Opioids
Studies show addiction affects about 26 percent of those using opioids for chronic noncancer pain, and 1 in 550 patients on opioid therapy dies from opioid-related causes within 2.5 years of their first prescription.6
Despite the drugs’ high risk of addiction, a 2016 NPR health poll7 indicated less than one-third of people said they questioned or refused their doctor’s prescription for opioids. The most common drugs involved in prescription opioid overdose deaths include8 methadone, oxycodone (such as OxyContin®) and hydrocodone (such as Vicodin®).
However, as noted by Dr. Deeni Bassam, board-certified anesthesiologist, pain specialist and medical director of the Virginia-based The Spine Care Center, “There’s very little difference between oxycodone, morphine and heroin. It’s just that one comes in a prescription bottle and another one comes in a plastic bag.”9
Indeed, many addicts find the transition from prescription opioids to street drugs like heroin to be a relatively easy one. When a prescription runs out, the cost to renew it becomes unmanageable or a physician refuses to renew a prescription, heroin, which is often cheaper and easier to obtain than opioids, is frequently a go-to solution.