Back in the 1960s, heroin users were usually young men, who started using around an average age of 16. They were most likely from low-income neighborhoods, and when they turned to opiates, heroin was their first choice.
Now, more than 50 years later, a study from JAMA paints a very different picture.
Today's typical heroin addict starts using at 23, is more likely to live in the affluent suburbs and was likely unwittingly led to heroin through painkillers prescribed by his or her doctor.
While heroin is illicit and opioid pills such as oxycontin are FDA-approved, each is derived from the poppy plant. Their chemical structures are highly similar and they bind to the same group of receptors in the brain. (A few opioids, like fentanyl, are totally synthetic but designed to bind with those same receptors).
In any case, the various drugs produce the same result: an increase in pain tolerance and a sense of euphoria, along with drowsiness, occasional nausea and, at higher doses, a slowing of the user's breathing.
Read the entire article at CNN.com