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American Teens more likely to Try Heroin after Abusing Painkillers, Survey Says

Update Date: Dec 30, 2015 10:35 AM EST

American teenagers who abuse prescription pain relievers are at risk of using heroin, a new survey concluded.

According to the lead researcher of the study, Joseph Palamar, "The more times a teen uses nonprescribed painkiller pills, the greater the risk he or she is at for becoming dependent on the drug. People who become dependent on painkiller pills often wind up resorting to heroin use because it's cheaper and more available than these pills."

Palamar, who is an assistant professor of population health at New York University, and his colleagues, analyzed results from a survey that reached nearly 68,000 high school seniors from different neighborhoods.

They found that more than 12 percent of the students admitted to using painkillers that were not prescribed to them. These narcotics included Vicodin, Percocet and OzyContin. 1.2 percent of high school seniors stated that they used heroin and 77 percent of them had used narcotic painkillers before heroin.

The team reported that frequent use of these types of painkillers increased one's likelihood of turning to heroin. They found that nearly 25 percent of the teens who took painkillers more than 40 times also reported using heroin.

Palamar noted that even though there is no one fast and easy solution to this drug problem, he argued that better education about drugs could help significantly.

"The biggest problem is that many teens don't trust drug education in schools or information provided by the government," Palamar explained reported by Medical Xpress. "If teens don't believe warnings about street drugs, then why would they be afraid to use government-approved, pharmaceutical-grade pills?"

He added, "We need to educate our educators, and then we need to start giving more honest and accurate information to our teens because what we're doing now isn't working."

Other findings from the study included:

- White students were more likely than black or Hispanic students to use heroin or painkillers. They were also more likely to use heroin after abusing painkillers.

-Black or Hispanic kids were more likely to use heroin without using painkillers first.

-Girls were less likely than boys to use painkillers and heroin.

-Students from two-parent households were less likely to use both drugs.

The study's findings were published in the journal, Drug and Alcohol Dependence.

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