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Painkillers fuel growth in drug addiction, from the Harvard Mental Health Letter

January 03, 2011

Prescription painkillers kill about twice as many people as cocaine and five times as many as heroin. Nearly two million Americans are dependent on or abusing narcotic (opioid) pain relievers — nearly twice as many as are addicted to cocaine. Because opioid painkillers target the same brain receptors as heroin, causing euphoria, they carry the risk of addiction.

On television shows, drug addicts are often depicted as criminal characters making deals on dark street corners. In fact, people abusing opioid painkillers are most likely to obtain them from friends or family members rather than from any other source, reports the January 2011 issue of the Harvard Mental Health Letter.

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