By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Oct. 28, 2015 (HealthDay News) — Addicts who have moved from narcotic painkillers to heroin are helping researchers understand this deadly tradeoff.

Looking for clues driving concurrent painkiller and heroin abuse, researchers conducted online interviews with 267 addiction patients. This group was culled from more than 15,000 addicts entering drug treatment centers in 49 U.S. states.

Nearly half of those interviewed said they were hooked on narcotic painkillers such as OxyContin, Vicodin and Percocet before using heroin. All of these powerful drugs are opium derivatives.

Three-quarters of the respondents said heroin’s lower cost and greater availability led them to try it, researchers found.

But heroin is even more dangerous than prescription painkillers, also known as opioid painkillers.

“Not only is [heroin] more addictive, but one isn’t sure how pure it is, so overdoses are quite common,” said Theodore Cicero, a professor of neuropharmacology at Washington University in St. Louis and lead researcher on the new study.

According to the White House, abuse of narcotic painkillers along with heroin is “epidemic” in the United States.

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