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  • Writer's pictureMartin Polanco

Addiction After Injury: How Painkillers are Causing Heroin Addiction

Originally posted December 31, 2016

It’s no secret that there’s a heroin epidemic raging across the US. Addiction statistics are off the charts when it comes to heroin use, and it’s affecting practically every demographic there is. Those most at risk? Quite often it’s those who have suffered an injury who run the greatest possibility of becoming someone who’s hooked on heroin.

How Can Painkillers Prescribed for an Injury Lead to Heroin Use?

It all stem from the prescription pain medication prescribed after someone’s suffered an injury. This means that many who get hurt (from teen athletes injured in sports to someone who slipped and broke their ankle) are given painkillers to take until their symptoms improve. The thing is, most of these prescription pain pills hold high potential for addiction–and this addiction is what often leads to heroin use.

Heroin offers similar effects to prescription meds. It feeds addiction almost exactly the same way as painkillers do, and does so at a fraction of the cost. Painkillers can be expensive (and difficult to attain) on the black market, and heroin’s something that’s cheap. Not only that, but it’s readily available pretty much everywhere.

So, once the addiction sets in, many search for more pain medications. After being addicted to pain medication addicts seek a cheaper solution, which often leads to heroin use.

Prescription Medication Causes Dependency

Prescription painkillers are also known as opioids. They work by reducing the amount of pain signals that reach the brain while influencing certain areas in the brain that control emotion. And while they certainly do provide pain relief (and sometimes feeling of euphoria), they are also causing the biggest opioid epidemic we have ever experienced.

The increasing number of deaths from opioid addiction has reached a new high. The most commonly prescribed painkillers (oxycodone and hydrocodone) happen to be the ones involved in more deaths than any other opioid there is.


Hydrocodone, commonly known as Vicodin, is the most prescribed painkiller in the US. It’s also shown to be connected to more drug abuse than any other opioid there is. It’s a Schedule Class II Substance, and shows high potential for addiction. Withdrawal symptoms of hydrocodone include:

  • Pain

  • Restlessness

  • Insomnia/Difficulty Sleeping

  • Decreased Appetite

  • Cramping

  • Diarrhea

  • Nausea

  • Vomiting


Oxycodone is another prescription opioid known as Percocet or OxyContin. This commonly prescribed painkiller is another that shows great potential for abuse. When dependent upon oxycodone, withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Depression

  • Anxiety

  • Coughing

  • Runny Nose

  • Watery Eyes

  • Muscle Aches

  • Sweating

  • Nausea

  • Vomiting

  • Increased Heart Rate

People are prescribed these pills because they’re hurt, and the next thing they know they’re fully dependent on them. Don’t take them and feel like you’re dying. Continue taking them and feel like your normal. It’s no wonder that opioid addiction has tripled over the last ten years and overdose rates are out of control.

In 2014, more than 6 out of 10 drug overdoses were from opioids (prescription painkillers and heroin). Prescription opioids saw the highest number of deaths (5,550) that same year, which was twice as many as the year before.

Prescriptions of opioids have increased tenfold since 1990. Consequently, during this time we’ve also seen an increase in the number of people addicted to prescription pills. Along with this comes a dramatic rise in the number of heroin addicts.

From Injury to Addiction

For those that suffer an injury, prescription painkillers are often necessary. From the football player who suffered one too many concussions to the skier that broke their leg on the slopes, painkillers like oxycodone and hydrocodone are prescribed every single day. And for some, once the injury has healed, they find the desire to continue taking their painkillers somewhat overwhelming.

When someone continually takes opioids over a period of time (like someone with an injury would do), the brain begins to change. It begins to only feel “normal” when opioids are present and functions irregularly when they’re not. Once someone’s been on painkillers for a while, there often becomes a need to take more to feel this “desired” effect. Because of the changes that have taken place in the brain, dependency is something that becomes common.

It’s addiction, and it’s happening to an alarming number of people prescribed pills for pain. What’s caused by something that was supposed to benefit the body often ends up destroying it instead. When someone realizes they’re addicted to pills and can get heroin cheaper they are likely to move to heroin addiction.

The connection between injuries and addiction is real. Understanding this not only helps people better understand how some addiction starts, but can prevent someone from becoming addicted after they’ve suffered an injury and are prescribed medication. If you or a loved one are addicted to prescription pills or heroin contact Crossroads Ibogaine for more information on how ibogaine treatment can be effective for treating your addiction.

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