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Prescription Pain Pills Are Gateway To Heroin Overdoses - April 2014

A defendant in the Eastern District of Michigan was recently sentenced for bringing two kilograms of heroin into the United States from Canada across the Ambassador Bridge.  A drug that was once almost eradicated has made a comeback.

The prescription drug epidemic has revived heroin, and is bringing with it often fatal overdoses.   In the past ten years in Michigan, overdose deaths from heroin have increased by 300 percent.

The prevalence of pain medication, such as Oxycodone and Vicodin, have led to addiction, particularly among young people.  They find these pain pills in the medicine cabinet at their home.  Sometimes young people themselves are prescribed pain medication for sports injuries or dental work.  Because it was prescribed by a doctor, prescription medicine often lacks the taboo of street drugs.

But pain medication is highly addictive.  Once addicts deplete their supplies, they find the street price -- $80 a pill – too steep, so they turn to another opiate as a substitute, heroin, which they can buy on the street for $10 a dose.

The problem with purchasing heroin on the street, of course, is that the user has no idea how potent it is.  And as addiction continues, larger and larger doses are required to achieve the same high.  As a result, young people are overdosing on heroin at alarming rates.

Parents need to talk to their teenagers about the dangers of prescription pain medication.  They can take a first step by safely removing old medicine from their homes.  This Saturday, April 26, DEA will be holding a National Drug Takeback Day.  Collection sites have been set up all over the country, including at police stations throughout our area.  To find one near you, go to or call 1-800-882-9539.

Barbara L. McQuade
United States Attorney
Eastern District of Michigan

Updated March 20, 2015