Misuse of Prescription Pain Killers May Lead to Heroin Use

b_250_0_16777215_00_images_obgrabber_2013-08_ef7a4f1bb8.jpgiStockphoto/Thinkstock (NEW YORK) -- People who don't use prescription pain killers properly face a greater chance of moving onto harder drugs, according to a new report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). "People who misuse prescription pains really are more at risk to other drugs" says Peter Delaney, a director with SAMHSA.

The report found that people between the ages of 12 and 49 who had used prescription pain relievers non-medically were 19 times more likely to have started using heroin in the past year.  SAMHSA also found that four out of five new heroin users had misused pain killers.

Delaney says the findings are important because they may lead to earlier intervention. "If we're seeing more people moving to heroine anyway, even though it's still a very small number of people, knowing what they started with and how they're shifting to heroin may give us some very good ideas about how we might intervene," he explains.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio