Doctors, not drug dealers, are causing the nation’s heroin epidemic, says the New Republic. Every year since 2007, doctors have written more than 200 million prescriptions for opioid painkillers spread among the nation’s 240 milliion adults. Four in five new heroin addicts report that they got addicted to prescription pills before they ever took heroin. Since 2002, the number of monthly heroin abusers has doubled to 335,000 nationwide. Some of the addicts get the pills through a well-meaning doctor or dentist, and many others swipe leftover pills from their friends or family members.
The result for an addict is the same: Once the pills or money run out, heroin is still available—and cheap. At about $10 per hit, it can be half the street cost of pills. “We seeded the population with opiates,” says Robert DuPont, an addiction doctor who served as drug czar under Presidents Nixon and Ford and who is now a harsh critic of opiate over-prescription. The supply shock from easy access to prescription drugs has pushed heroin use out of cities and into rural and suburban and middle-class areas. Massachusetts reported a staggering 185 heroin deaths outside its major cities since November, and Peter Shumlin, the governor of Vermont, spent his entire “state-of-the-state” address talaking about the nearly eightfold increase in people seeking opiate treatment there since 2000.