Many of the people who use heroin got their start in Mom and Dad's medicine cabinet. The director of the Illinois Poison Center, Dr. Michael Wahl, has authored a white paper released by his agency and the Illinois Department of Public Health. Wahl says in 2012, his center received more than 2,600 calls about prescription painkillers.
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“For Xanax, Valium, and those types of tranquilizers,” Wahl says, “they are the second most abused. If you look at the death data, it's people who take the narcotics and the tranquilizer, and maybe mix in a little alcohol who end up being the deaths.”
Wahl says young people can help themselves to the contents of the family medicine cabinet on their way to addiction, moving on to the cheaper and, in some cases, easier-to-get heroin. Other ways of fueling the addiction include doctor-shopping, theft, fraud, and finding less scrupulous doctors.
You can stop prescription drug abuse before it starts, Wahl says, by safely disposing of unused prescription drugs; and, when a doctor prescribes one, by asking if it's necessary. He says tighter monitoring of who is prescribing, who is filling, and who is obtaining can be part of the solution.