Women Hooked on Heroin. Prescribed Opioid Medications

Many people have a stereotypical image of a heroin addict. They picture men or women injecting liquid heroin into their veins down dark alleyways. They often believe that heroin addicts are people from the dregs of society that have no job and very little money. The truth is often very different, however, and many develop heroin addictions after first becoming addicted to other opioid medications that were prescribed by a GP.

Gateway Drug

According to scientists, prescription medication is a ‘gateway drug’ to heroin addiction in women. They say that in more than half of women who are hooked on methadone, the starting point in their opioid addiction was prescription medication handed out by a GP.

Methadone is a synthetic drug used as a substitute for heroin, and it is commonly prescribed to heroin addicts in a bid to wean them off the street drug. Methadone is often given to heroin addicts to help them give up heroin without experiencing withdrawal symptoms.

While more than half of the women on methadone started off with prescription medication, only two-fifths of male addicts said the same.

Heroin Addiction

Opioid medication such as codeine and OxyContin is extremely addictive, and many patients do not fully understand the risks of taking these drugs. And when they are weaned off the pills by a GP, they will often look to buy them online or on the street. Nevertheless, the problem here is that prescription medication is much more expensive than street heroin, which has the same effects. It is hardly surprising then that so many people turn to heroin.

Changing Profiles

According to Dr Monica Bawor, neuroscientist at McMaster University in Ontario, “A rising number of women are seeking treatment for opioid addiction in Canada and other countries yet, in many cases, treatment is still geared towards a patient profile that is decades out of date – predominantly young men injecting heroin and with few family or employment responsibilities.”

The study showed that of the 503 participants, there were significant differences between male and female methadone patients. Women had more psychological and physical health problems than men did and were more likely to have mental illnesses in their family history.

The study also showed how the profile of heroin addicts has changed over the past twenty years. In the 1990s, addicts had an average age of 25 but today that average age has jumped to 38. There has been a reduction in the number of individuals injecting heroin but the number of those becoming addicted to the drug after being prescribed opioid medication has increased by thirty per cent.

Although Canada is the World’s biggest consumer of opioid painkillers, other countries like the US and the UK are noticing similar problems with addiction to these medications.

Up-to-Date Treatments

According to Professor Zena Samaan, there are no clear reasons why women are more affected by opioid medication addiction, but she added, “For whatever reason this is a growing problem in Canada and in other countries – such as the US – and addiction treatment programs need to adapt to the changing profile of opioid addiction.”

Help for Addiction

With the growing number of people becoming dependent on prescription medication around the world, it is important to state that help is available for this type of addiction. Here at Addiction Helper, we have a large team of professional staff working around the clock to ensure that clients can access the help and treatments they need, regardless of the type of addiction they are suffering from.

If you or a loved one needs help for addiction, contact Addiction Helper today and we will provide you with help and advice as well as information on where you can access suitable treatments for your requirements.


  1. https://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-3311156/Prescription-painkillers-gateway-drugs-heroin-addiction-women-warn-experts.html
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