If you’ve been watching the news lately, you may have noticed that opioid drug abuse is being scrutinized by both law enforcement and health professionals. Now, research suggests one reason for concern is that abuse of these medications may lead to heroin use, especially once access to the prescription med ends.

According to three recent studies, almost half of young people surveyed who inject heroin say they abused prescription opioids, such as codeine and oxycodone, before graduating to the street drug.

The ill effects of heroin on health are numerous. Besides addiction, the laundry list of threats to wellness includes the risk heroin users face of developing infectious diseases, such as HIV and hepatitis B and C viruses, collapsed veins, bacterial infections, abscesses, infection of heart lining and valves, arthritis and other rheumatologic problems, and liver and kidney disease, as well as lung complications, mental disorders, sexual dysfunction and cell death in vital organs.