Prescription drug abuse is one of the biggest threats facing North America today, and another is the epidemic of heroin abuse and overdose deaths in recent years. Many people who start to use heroin do not start with this drug, they begin with prescription opioid use and then progress to heroin as time goes on and the prescription drugs become harder to obtain. When an individual is given opioid medications these can cause a tolerance to develop and the user may start taking more than prescribed or taking doses earlier than directed. Eventually a new prescription is needed, and doctors are becoming more wary of giving out these drugs because they have such a high potential for abuse. This can lead to doctor shopping as the person tries to get a legitimate prescription for the drugs they are seeking.
Over time the prescription drug abuse gets worse, and the opioids may not be available. Purchasing these drugs illegally off the street is the next step, but the high demand means that opioids can be very expensive especially in larger doses when they are even available on the street market. In contrast heroin use is a much less expensive habit, with a packet of the drug selling for as low as $10 in some areas compared to $1-$2 per milligram for oxycontin and other powerful opioids in some areas. A 100 mg oxycontin pill may fetch between $75-$200 while the same strength of heroin costs a small fraction of this price.