WASHINGTON, March 7 (UPI) -- Heroin use has risen in the United States since a crackdown on the abuse of prescription drugs like OxyContin began more than a decade ago, experts say.
The crackdown has made obtaining pills illegally more difficult and expensive, the Washington Post reported. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that heroin use has risen almost 100 percent.
"Absolutely, much of the heroin use you're seeing now is due in large part to making prescription opioids a lot less accessible,'' Theodore Cicero, a psychiatry professor at Washington University in St. Louis and one of the authors, told the Post.
The National Drug Intelligence Center, which was shut down in 2012, reported that between 2007 and 2012 heroin use was up 79 percent with four out of five users reported to have had experience with prescription drugs.
OxyContin, a powerful time-release painkiller, went on sale in the mid-1990s.
The crackdown on prescription drug abuse began a few years later because of reports of street use and overdoses.
At the time, heroin use was stable or possibly declining slightly. Cicero said there was a "lot of inaction" even though many involved in federal drug enforcement feared drug users would turn back to heroin.