opiate crisis painkiller crisis


Having previously worked in the New York City night life industry for over 10 years, I have become very familiar with the world of drugs. I have seen all types of people using all types of drugs from plain old alcohol to pot, pills, cocaine and everything in between and beyond. I am not going to lie, I have done my share of experimenting but I always researched every drug and every pill I took. Some of the knowledge I am sharing comes from that.

This opiate crisis has been a topic of news and conversation as of late but it has been a major issue for years now. Almost 15 years ago, the there was a painkiller Oxycontin (an opiate) problem. Ozzy Osbourne’s son Jack Osbourne was one of many who became addicted to Oxys. His sister Kelly Osbourne also revealed her addiction to opiates aka painkillers which started with Vicodin.

I wasn’t close but someone I went to high school with passed away almost 3 years ago from a Heroin overdose. The thing is, most people don’t just start taking Heroin. They get there when seemingly harmless prescription painkillers like Vicodin and Percocet no longer get the job done.

Some of us will be lucky off the bat. Nausea is an extremely common side effect of opiates so if you are one of those people like me, it would be very difficult to pick up an opiate addiction. I remember taking a Percocet one day. I threw up every hour almost on the dot for 6 hours straight. There was no way I was going to take them ever again after that.

Many people are not so lucky. Opiates give them the most euphoric high they have ever experienced. Most importantly, it takes away their pain. Physical, mental and even emotional.

From all of my research and experience, if I had to pick what I felt was the most dangerous drug of them all, without hesitation I would say any and all opiate class drugs.

Everyone has their vice and I’m not here to preach, but if you do take drugs even recreationally, just make sure you educate yourself and be as safe as possible before part taking. Sites like Erowid are a great resource to use.



I have a problem with calling the current crisis involving opioid based drugs an “Opiate Crisis.” The world opiate sure does sound bad, but it doesn’t exactly ring a bell. You will never hear anyone say “Hey, you want to get some opiates and do them in my apartment tonight?” or “Can you tell me where you get your opiates from?”

I wonder how many people can give names of 3 opiate based drugs if they were asked. Most can probably mention Heroin, and yes, Heroin is the strongest opiate based drug, but then why not just call it a Heroin crisis? Doesn’t everyone know Heroin is a drug and it’s bad? Most people do, and most people don’t even know anyone that uses Heroin. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of people that use Heroin and it is a major problem on its own, but in my experience, the most problematic opiates are prescription drugs. More specifically, painkillers.

A surprising number of people don’t know that the commonly prescribed painkillers such as Vicodin and Percocet are opiates. That’s why I have a problem with calling this an “Opiate Crisis.” You don’t ever see the word opiate or hear that word even though you may have a bottle of Vicodin somewhere in your medicine cabinet from your last painful visit to the dentist.

It’s hard to imagine that Heroin and Vicodin sit on the same plane of existence. Heroin seems so bad and painkillers seem so…. good, or at least benign. It’s even prescribed!

No one likes pain. In fact everyone hates pain. We avoid pain like the plague. It is a normal human response and a big part of what has allowed opiates to become such a major problem. It is part of our instinctive desire to ease pain, and for better or worse, opiates have helped many people make their pain more manageable.

We need a word that is more commonly seen and heard. A word that people can relate to and understand faster. This is why the “Opiate Crisis” should be called the “Painkiller Crisis.” It needs to be more common knowledge that Heroin and painkillers fall from the same tree. Painkillers equal opiates, and painkillers are basically Heroin light.



There are 2 main types of painkillers we use. One is acetaminophen, and the other are opiates in its many forms. Acetaminophen is the pain killing element in Tylenol and for now we can exclude it from our Painkiller Crisis (FYI many of the prescription painkillers include both acetaminophen and opiates). I didn’t include Ibuprofen (Advil) on this list because it isn’t actually a painkiller. Inflammation causes pain and Ibuprofen is an anti-inflammatory medicine or NSAID that reduce inflammation which leads to a reduction in pain.

Opiates are drugs derived from the opium poppy plant, prescription and otherwise. The reason why that word gets disguised is because we are used to calling drugs by their name and not their ingredients. We call it Heroin, Opium, Oxycontin, Oxycodone, Hydrocordone, Codeine, Roxicet, Endocet, Percocet, Vicodin, Morphine, Methadone, Fentanyl, Hydromorphone, Buprenorphine, Meperidine, Oxymorphone and Dihydrocodeine etc. All are painkillers and all are prescription drugs excluding Heroin and Opium.



There are 2 main classification of drugs. Uppers (Caffeine, Nicotine) and downers (Alcohol). The words are pretty self explanatory but the aspects of uppers and downers I want to focus on is what it does to the heart. Without getting too scientific and technical I want to explain why downers, more specifically opiates are so dangerous.

Statistically, more people use uppers like amphetamines which include Cocaine, Crystal Meth, and prescription drugs like Adderall. It would seem strange then why we don’t hear about an amphetamine crisis.

Generally speaking, uppers increase your heart rate and downers slow it down. Painkillers (opiates) as you may have guessed fall under the downer category. Both uppers and downers when taken excessively can cause the heart to crash or fail and lead to death.

When you overdose on uppers, your heart beats way too fast and crashes. We know this as a heart attack. When you overdose on downers, the heart slows down so much that it basically stops beating.

I am not in any way encouraging use of any drug, but people have survived heart attacks even if you are not the same after it. If you heart just stops beating however, there is no coming back from that. You die and that’s it. My point is that there is a possibility you will be alive if you sniff too much blow, but no possibility whatsoever if you take too much Heroin or pop too many painkillers.



If you take any drug for a long period of time, you can develop a dependency to that drug. Simply put, you don’t feel right without taking them. The dependency can come in the form of a mental, emotional and or physical addiction.

Scientifically speaking, amphetamines are not physically addicting. Yes, there are withdrawal symptoms coming off an amphetamine dependency and the chemical balance in your brain will be off. You will most likely have a strong mental and emotional desire to take an amphetamine to feel better. It may suck a lot, but your body doesn’t require it.

Saying goodbye to an opiate on the other hand is much more of a difficult task. You have to fight the same mental and emotional addiction just like amphetamines but you also need to fight the physical addiction. Simply put, once your body becomes dependent on painkillers, you will feel unbearably sick if you do not continue to take them.

I had a friend who took Percocet recreationally. Nothing crazy, maybe one a day. He didn’t act strange, he was exactly himself. One day he told me that he hasn’t been feeling well for the past few days. He couldn’t quite figure out what it was. It wasn’t a cold or the flu. He just felt really sick.

I asked him if he was still taking Percs. He said no. I told him that it’s probably because he stopped taking them but he didn’t believe me.

I saw him a few days later and he told me that I was right. A friend of his had given him a Percocet and he had felt immediately better after he took it.

Fortunately, he was able to stop before it was too late. What I learned from this is that physical addiction is the hardest to kick. My friend didn’t really care to go get more Percs when he ran out. This showed that he wasn’t mentally or emotionally addicted. His body however, gave him a different sort of signal.



Throughout my years I have come to know several drug dealers. Some were just your friendly neighborhood pot dealer, but some were “for real.” You did not want to mess with them in any way. Interestingly, through all my years working the night life in NYC, I can barely count on one hand the number of people I came across that did Heroin. In fact I have never seen Heroin with my own eyes.

One particular dealer I became acquainted with had explained to me why this was the case, or at least one of the reasons. He was part of the New Jersey mob and frequented the club I worked at. He usually came in with a younger guy, let’s just call him Al. One day he stopped showing up with Al so few weeks into this new trend I asked him “What happened to Al? He doesn’t come with you anymore.” He said he caught him selling Heroin and told him if he sees him in New York ever again, it won’t end well.

To be honest, I was surprised. From a drug dealer’s perspective, what is wrong with selling Heroin?

He told me that it’s so easy for people overdose on Heroin, and when that happens, naturally the police get involved. From whatever they find, it becomes much easier for them to trace the origin of the Heroin. Basically, selling Heroin can be very bad for business.

You might remember the arrests that were made after actor Philip Seymour Hoffman was found dead from a drug overdose with bags of Heroin in his posession.

These arrests would never have been made had the actor not overdosed.



For the most part I think our culture has done a decent job instilling a negative image of Heroin in our brains. Even before reading this most of you probably are saying, “I will never touch Heroin.” Most of you have been prescribed and have taken a Vicodin, Percocet or other painkillers at least once in your life. I can almost guarantee that when that happened, the word Heroin or opiates did not cross your mind.

Films like Requiem For A Dream by Darren Aronofsky depict people with drug addiction, but the opiate addiction is clearly the most disturbing part of this film.

I know Heroin will seem very foreign to many of you, but the best way to alleviate this opiate crisis is to pay attention to painkillers. When you here the word painkiller amongst your friends and family, educate them and be mindful.

If you know people that are already addicted, just know that they really need your help and support. They are battling a mental, emotional and worst of all a physical addiction which is beyond their control.


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