Abuse of prescription painkillers has become so extensive that the narcotics are being called the “new heroin” by leading drug authorities who say the problem is becoming a national crisis, reports the San Diego Union-Tribune. The abuse of these powerful painkillers was the topic of a one-day conference Monday where medical experts and drug officials cautioned that more people are becoming addicted to these drugs than to illegal street drugs. Abuse of these synthetic opiates “comes with the same personal consequences as abuse of heroin,” said retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey, who served as the head of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy from 1996 to 2001.
He was the keynote speaker at the conference sponsored by CRC Health Group Inc., one of the largest chemical dependency treatment providers in the country. The conference brought together state and local drug treatment specialists with law enforcers. There are an estimated 980,000 heroin users in the country while 1.4 million people are hooked on prescription painkillers. In San Diego, admissions for treatment of painkiller addiction at CRC clinics have jumped from 5 percent of all cases five years ago to 25 percent today.