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Prescription Pills Are Behind 80 Percent Of Heroin Addiction In Illinois

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Steve Birr Vice Reporter
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Officials convened for an opioid and heroin abuse summit in Illinois Tuesday to tackle rising overdoses from heroin, addictions which predominately began with prescription pills.

Heroin overdose deaths spiked by 120 percent between 2014 and 2015 in the state and the disturbing trend continues. Franklin County suffered a seven percent increase over that same period, something the sheriff said Tuesday is greatly concerning to him. Much of the focus of the gathering fell on prescription drugs, specifically opiate based painkillers such as oxycodone, and how a simple injury can lure unsuspecting victims into the trap of addiction, reports WSIU.

“They take them and they get more and they become addicted and once the doctor stops prescribing them, then they kind of gravitate towards heroin,” Marvin Lindsey, Community Behavioral Healthcare Association of Illinois, said at the summit, according to WSIU. “80 percent of our heroin users initiated their substance abuse with prescription drugs.”

Lindsey, an organizer of the summit, said youth and young adults are at particular risk when they get an injury and need painkillers. Without proper education and disciplined use, he says addiction can quickly take hold. Officials pushed for greater community engagement to discuss solutions to the crisis. The state is having some success with a program where people can discard unused prescriptions so they don’t end up in the wrong hands.

Fatal overdoses from heroin quadrupled over the last five years across the U.S., according to data released Friday by the National Center for Health Statistics. They say the massive increase in heroin and general opioid abuse in the U.S. since 2010 is driven by lower drug prices and ingredients with higher potency, like fentanyl.

Authors of the study note that in 2010, only eight percent of all fatal drug overdoses stemmed from heroin. Roughly 25 percent of fatal drug overdoses in 2015 were caused by heroin, for example. Opioid deaths contributed to the first drop in U.S. life expectancy since 1993 and eclipsed deaths from motor vehicle accidents in 2015.

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