Class blog for sharing and commenting on current events in biology.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Prescription Painkillers Seen as a Gateway to Heroin

Carey, Benedict. "Prescription Painkillers Seen as a Gateway to
Heroin." The New York Times, 10 Feb. 2014. Web. 11 Feb. 2014. <>.

This article is about prescription painkillers and the drug heroin being interconnected and the use of one leading to the use of another. Recently, actor Philip Seymour Hoffman died of a heroin overdose. He was a recovering addict and had struggling to quit a prescription painkiller addiction last year. Opioid painkillers such as Vicodin and OxyContin have created problems of relapse for users and former users. When heroin users go through withdrawal, these prescription painkillers can relieve them. Also, former heroin users get cravings for heroin when the consume prescription painkillers.
Sociologist Stephen E. Lankenau said, “Users switch back and forth, to pills then back to heroin when it’s available, and back again.” Prescription opioid use and heroin use have been on the rise and it is now easy to get opioids from many different sources. Many people recovering from heroin abuse are reported to have started on painkillers. Many clinics are now holding overdose prevention courses, which teach the signs of an overdose and teach people how to administer an opioid-blocking drug.
This article is very relevant to the drug abuse issue in today’s world. In so many magazines and newspapers you can find stories about drug use and abuse, and it seems that we hear about celebrities dying from overdoses much too often. The fact that heroin use is linked to prescription painkiller use is a scary realization. It is important that people using these medications know the dangers of abuse and what it can lead to.
I really enjoyed reading this article because it taught me something I did not know a lot about. I found it very interesting and eye opening. Even though this is true with many medications, it is scary to think that doctors are prescribing drugs that can be abused and lead to life-altering, even life-threatening illegal drugs. I liked how the article was written – it wasn’t too long, but included necessary background information and connections to today’s world. I enjoyed reading this article and the topic is definitely something I would be interesting in learning more about.


  1. Mia, you picked a very emotionally charged topic! I watched the video on the New York Times website and it was very disturbing for me. I lost a friend, someone I was close to when I was a 10th grader, a couple weeks ago. Her cause of death is still unknown, but I do know she was on pain medications for a car accident several years ago. I wonder why she was still on pain medication for something that happened four or five years ago. Was she addicted to the pain meds? Did she combine it with other drugs or overdose? I don't know the cause of death, but it was very tragic to lose this high school friend at young age. (She was 28.) Similarly, many people feel the lose of Philip Seymour Hoffman and there are so many other great and talented artists who have died from drug overdose.

    I thought your summary was great, and your writing was clear and effective. The only weak point was the critique. You didn't find anything that could have been improved or enhanced the article? One thing I found lacking in the article was the actual science. It would have been nice if they had discussed more the chemistry in the brain that makes one addicted to opiates, or at least give some more statistics on how many people die from heroin overdose, or admit to being addicted to their pain medications. I have seen a lot of articles in the news in the past year on efforts to reign in prescriptions for powerful and addicting pain medication, but the author didn't mention any of that. This was a compelling article, but it seems to only be a small facet of a larger problem. The author could have done more to highlight the extent of this problem using CDC data, or could have explained some of the reasons why prescription pain medication is similar to the use of heroin in the brain. Just some ideas.

    Overall you did a great job though. Kudos for being the first person to post a current event this semester!

  2. Mia did a great job with this current event. She drew me in as a reader and I learned a lot. One thing Mia did well was giving examples of people who overdosed on drugs. Her example was the actor Seymour Hoffman. Her examples show us that overdoses happen in everyday life and it needs to be prevented. Another thing Mia did well was used understandable words. If she used large words over and over the reader wouldn't be able to understand what she was trying to say. However she didn't use childish language either. Lastly Mia did a great job saying what she liked about it. She said that it opened her eyes and she learned something she didn't know before.
    I was surprised at how common it is for people to overdose on heroin or the pain killers. I always read stories about celebrities overdosing in the news but I never noticed how often it was. Mia really made me think about what drugs have come to. Another thing that caught my attention was how common it is for people to abuse pain killers. I always hear about it but I didn't know it was something that needed to be prevented on a daily basis.
    Mia did a phenomenal job writing this current event but there is one thing I would have improved. I would have like to know what made this article be written. Was there a huge event or a finding from a doctor. Overall I liked Mia's current event a lot.

  3. Well there is something I never would have guessed. Although that might explain the increase in prescription drug thefts. I think Mia chose a great topic to report on and displayed the information well. I never would have thought about the side effects of both of those drugs. Also, I never knew what OxyContin did and how it worked. Great job Mia, there is nothing i think you can do better in this report.

  4. Great job Mia! First of all this was a very interesting topic you choose. It really kept me reading and I stayed interested throughout your entire report. I thought it was very well written and you used words that everyone can understand. Your writing was very clear and right to the point. Also, you had a great summary of the article. I learned a lot from reading your article. I liked how you chose an article that had to do with a very recent event. It’s so sad because this happens to stars more and more now. But, I didn’t know that painkillers had a link towards heroin use. You did a really good job of saying what you enjoyed about this article, but you never mentioned anything that you wish it had or that they did badly on. I would have liked to see something you didn’t like about the article. When reading this article I can really hear your voice. You put a good amount of summary and a lot of opinion. This article made me think about how big of a problem drugs has come to now a days, it is really ridiculous. Overall, you did a really good job Mia! Great work!

  5. Mia did a good job of making this current event easy to understand even if the reader is not familiar with drugs like painkillers or heroine. She did a nice job of making her current event interesting and made the reader want to learn more. I like how she used Seymour Hoffmanof as an example of heroine overdose because it shows people that drug overdose is a problem that many people face today. It interested me how painkillers are linked to heroine and made me want to know about other gateway drugs. This current event made me realize that drug overdose happens frequently and made me want to research more about what goes on in someone’s brain when they are taking pain killers so that it allows them to overdose. To conclude, I think Mia did a good job on her current event. She seemed to enjoy talking about her topic, which allowed her current event to be enjoyable to read. I think Mia could have added some statistics into her current event to interest the reader even more. Overall, great job Mia I really enjoyed reading your current event.

  6. I really enjoyed this current event. I like how you started with the introduction of such a interesting article which hooked me in to read more, and enjoy it. I also thought it was well done because you used an example early on to help us understand more about the subject and imagine it better. I also found that your quote helped a lot in shaping the current event, so it is more understandable. I learned a lot from this review because I never thought that there was any correlation between prescription pills and heroin, and you helped me realize that there is and it is a big problem today. It was also very interesting to see how people are trying to stop it and I liked how you ended with solutions for the problem. I really liked your review, but it could have been better if you went more in depth with the possible solutions. You did summarize and review it very well though.

  7. This is really good Mia! Although this is a really sad topic, it is also important, and you did a great job highlighting the problems. Drug overdose is serious and it happens more than many people realize, even though, as you said, it is commonly headlines in the new or magazines. The mental link between the two drugs is frightening and it makes people realize how addiction is a mental illness as well as a physical illness. I did not know the connection between the two drugs or about how commonly this happens, but your article was very insightful in explaining the problem going on today. Generally, I don’t have any complaints about this current event, because it seems to reach every necessary goal that was needed. The only thing that might be helpful would have been to add a little bit more information and facts, but it is not a major issue, because everything is still explained well.

  8. Mia, what a strong topic that you discussed very well! I had no idea that painkillers would be interconnected with heroin. It’s very scary to think of how a recovering addict can get hooked back on heroin by using painkillers as a gateway drug. I think that your quote was very good in giving a sociologists point of view. It really emphasized the real-ness of what is actually going on in today’s world. I also think that your relevance paragraph is great because it speaks a lot about the world today. Drugs are a major problem in today’s world and you’re completely right that people need to know the dangers of abuse. I also liked that you included the names of the painkillers in your review because it’s a good way to raise awareness about these relapse drugs. Overall I think your review was very great and your writing is awesome. But maybe next time including more science in it just to back up the subject a little more and give it more background and details. Great job!

  9. Mia,
    you did a really good job on this review. I particularly liked how you related this issue to something relevant in our lives (celebrities overdosing), because this made your topic and review more interesting to people of our generation. I also thought it was very fitting that you quoted your article in your review. This helped to provide good background and further demonstrated your understanding of the article and it’s main points. Additionally, I thought it was great that you provided some insight about the prevalence of prescription overdosing in our society today. I had no idea that prescription drugs could lead to drug abuse, and I wonder if they could possibly be categorized as a gateway drug? I think you could make this review even better by researching what makes painkillers and opioids so addictive, thus explaining why this problem is so common now, and maybe even compare its prevalence today with its prevalence in previous years. Overall, great job!