New Interactive Tool Illustrates How Pain Medicine Abuse Can Lead to Heroin Addiction

NEW YORK, NY – February 12, 2015 – The Partnership for Drug-Free Kids today released a new web resource to help drive awareness and action around the dangerous risks of prescription (Rx) medicine abuse among teens. The tool, titled Rx to Heroin, is an interactive infographic that illustrates the path leading some teens and young adults from prescription painkiller abuse into heroin addiction. The new infographic is the latest resource from The Medicine Abuse Project, a 5-year national action campaign that aims to prevent half a million teens from abusing medicine.

The infographic, both interactive and in printable .pdf form, follows the story of a fictional teen named Katie who was prescribed painkillers after suffering an injury. She then begins to abuse her Rx medication and when her tolerance increases, Katie is unable to gain access to more Rx pain medicine. Katie eventually turns to another opiate, heroin, leading her to a full-blown heroin addiction.

Research shows that 4 out of 5 heroin users first began with recreational use of prescription pain relievers[1]. Also, nearly 50 percent of young people who inject heroin started by abusing Rx drugs.[2] By utilizing key facts, statistics and links to direct services, the new tool is customized for parents, as well as educators, health care professionals and communities who may be looking for what they can do to address the migration from Rx pain medicine to heroin.

“The sad truth is that some young people start on a journey abusing prescription painkillers and then switch to heroin because it’s actually cheaper and more accessible. Communities across the country – regardless of geographic location or economic status – are experiencing an alarming uptick in deaths related to heroin overdose,” said Steve Pasierb, President and CEO of the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids. “We are responding to the needs of parents with a visually-engaging story, that helps humanize this often complex issue, by providing them with a very real scenario that can unfortunately happen to a young person in his or her life. Our hope is that parents will start a dialogue about what steps they can take to help prevent prescription painkiller abuse in their own families.”

“I have been working with patients with heroin addiction for the last 10 years and I can honestly say that almost every heroin addict I have seen started using prescription opiates first,” said Dr. Josh Hersh, Staff Psychiatrist at Miami University. “Some of them experienced injuries or surgeries and got their first prescription opiate from a physician while others got their first prescription opiate from their parents’ medicine cabinet. I think a resource such as this new tool can really help parents and kids see how addiction progresses and see that people don’t become heroin addicts overnight.”

The new infographic is part of the many science-based resources the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids offers to parents and families. For those who are looking for help for a child or loved one, the new tool also helps link them to direct services via the Partnership’s toll-free helpline and other online resources. Please visit for more information.

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[1] Source: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)

[2] Source: National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)

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    Basim Elhabashy

    March 9, 2015 at 1:57 AM

    Very informative post. Abuse of pain medicines are not good for health. It must be prevented by treatments and detox.

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    Darryl Carroll

    February 20, 2015 at 11:39 PM

    @Robert drug abuse is unstoppable, like if you’ve been restricted to prescription drugs, you will just turn to heroin because it’s cheaper and more accessible. That doesn’t solve the problem; the real problem is the abuse of drugs. Detox might be a great start for this kind of problem with the help of South Carolina detox rehab drug users will be free from the harmful toxins cause by the drugs, that’s not enough they must continue rehab to become drug free and that will solve their problem with drug abuse.

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    Robert Yoder

    February 20, 2015 at 10:57 AM

    Heroin use is skyrocketing. I really feel its due to the harder restrictions placed on doctors who currently prescribed paid meds or used to prescribe pain meds. Heroin is easy to find, really cheap, and apparently makes most users feel better or the same as they did when they had pain pills. The downside is so many more health related complications in using heroin. It’s going to make healthcare costs even higher because of the long-term effects.

    Its a catch 22, get rid of one drug, another will take its place. Unfortunately so many overdose and die on heroin, more so than opiates. And, unless your shooting up the pills, its less likely you’d get diseases from the sharing of needles with heroin.

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    Darryl Carroll

    February 16, 2015 at 11:55 PM

    Interactive infographics do not just attracts the parents but also the teenagers to be well-informed on how prescribed drugs can turn to addiction, if tolerated. This kind of Information must be disseminate well. Thanks to this kind of illustration. It’s catchy! Keep it up!

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