The use of heroin is usually associated with prescription opioids such as OxyContin, Vicodin, and Demerol. All of these prescription drugs are used for treatment of pain. When these prescription drugs are used in ways that are not intended by a doctor, used by someone that is not being prescribed these drugs, this is when serious health effects such as addiction, overdose, or death especially when combined with other drugs. Nearly 50% of young people who use heroin have reported abusing prescriptions opioids before using heroin. This change occurred because it is cheaper and easier to obtain than prescription opioids. When someone is abusing these prescription pain killers there is a chemical imbalance in the brain making the person think that these drugs are needed in an everyday setting. Not understanding what is happening, the person keeps seeking out these drugs so they can go on with normal everyday life. When prescriptions run out or get too expensive, people turn to cheap easy to obtain alternatives such as heroin to keep this addiction at bay. This is one very common way of becoming addicted to this very harmful drug.
The use of cannabis or alcohol abuse can lead to future use of more dangerous hard drugs. It is often attributed to the earlier use of one of several illicit substances such as tobacco, alcohol, and cannabis. The Reverse Gateway Theory states that earlier regular use of cannabis predicts later tobacco initiation and/or nicotine dependence in those who did not use tobacco before.
The hypothesis is that the use of soft drugs like cannabis leads to the use of harder drugs via a sequence of stages. This is based on the observation that many consumers who use cocaine or heroin have previously used cannabis, and most have used alcohol or tobacco; the hypothesis is that progression of drug use initiation continues from there to other drugs like cocaine or heroin.
The environment that someone surrounds themselves has a large influence in what their interests are and in this case what drugs are present in their life. By someone having friends that partake in drugs, peer pressure is going to be present in their friendship. A common motive for a first time drug use is peer pressure. Social learning theory describes how people learn from watching others. This is good news for humans because it means that they don’t always have to stick their own hand in the fire in order to learn that it is painful to do so. If the individual observes that other people appear to receive rewards for certain behaviors they will be tempted to model these behaviors. Thus if peers appear to get enjoyment from using drugs, the individual will be tempted to emulate their behavior. Social learning is critical for human survival but sometimes it can go wrong if the behavior being imitated is self-destructive. Just as it is possible to learn bad behaviors from watching other people, it is also possible to unlearn them. Drug users will tend to spend time with others who share their habit. Within this group the use of these chemicals will be considered normal behavior. Members may actually see non-drug users as deviants and view them suspiciously. Substance abuse will be the main thing that unites this group. Their common interest will be getting high together. It can be difficult for the individual to give up the comfort of belonging to a group of fellow drug users. This is something the individual will need to do if they hope to escape their addiction. These peers are unlikely to support any decision to quit. They are more likely to try to sabotage such an attempt. If a person in recovery continues to spend a lot of time with their drug using, it will increase their risk of relapse.