People can become addicted to many things these days — drugs, alcohol, smartphones (ahem). Even doctor-prescribed pain medications can become habit-forming. It's painkillers like those that have led to heroin addictions in real life, and it's those true stories that have inspired the new Lifetime movie Perfect High , starring Bella Thorne. Pain medications do give a significant amount of short-term pain relief, but many folks with injuries and chronic pain have remained dependent on those meds with dangerous results, as the Lifetime movie perfectly shows.
In Perfect High, Thorne plays Amanda, a high school dancer who begins taking Hydrocodone after an knee injury, and her new habit brings her new friends, a new love, pill parties, and a new addiction that eventually leads her to heroin. Executive producer Sheri Singer said in a statement that it's the true stories that inspired her to make Perfect High for Lifetime. "Heroin was no longer a street drug that was bought in back alleys but in fact was being sold at schools, Starbucks, parking lots," she said via press release. "Normal, good kids were getting involved in doing it and often the gateway drug is painkillers from the medicine cabinets of their parents and relatives."
Here are some of those real life stories and facts that inspired Lifetime's Perfect High.
Baseball Injury & Pill Parties
In a special report by Sports Illustrated this week, the magazine detailed how Roman Montano was on track to be a baseball star, but then got sidetracked by a foot injury and the OxyContin that doctors gave him for the pain. Once his prescription ran out, he found more at actual pill parties in his hometown, Albuquerque. He couldn't kick the habit and soon started smoking black tar heroin. At 22, he died of a heroin overdose.
Star Pitcher No More
Back in 2004, the Los Angeles Times reported on Jeff Allison, an all-star pitcher for the Florida Marlins baseball team. But he soon developed a prescription drug addiction that eventually led to heroin and an overdose. After that, he checked in to rehab and the 19-year-old was cut from the team. "Pitchers throw out a shoulder, hurt a wrist, elbow, get lots of aches and pains," Dr. Clifford A. Bernstein, medical director of the Waismann Institute in Beverly Hills, Calif., told the newspaper. "They get exposed to these opiate medications early, usually starting with Vicodin. Next thing you know the pain is going away and they're feeling good because these things give you a little energy."
From All-American To Addicted
In an interview with Oprah Prime, Claire talked about how she used to seemingly have it all. She was an All-American varsity college athlete on scholarship. But it wasn't an injury that caused her to turn to pills. "I was just so unhappy with myself and never felt good enough or satisfied, no matter what," Claire said on the show. "It came from something inside of me that was just not okay."
She first started using other athletes' left over painkillers and then progressed to heroin. "The first time I put a needle in my arm, I knew there was no going back," Claire said.
Unable To Stop
In the Quad-City Times, a talented high school and college lacrosse player Kevin Glenz developed an addiction to OxyContin. His father Larry had put him in many rehab facilities over the years, but Glenz had trouble kicking the habit and ultimately OD'd on heroin. He died at age 27 in 2010.
Brother & Sister
In the Sports Illustrated report, Amber Masters detailed how she once was a talented soccer player showing off for college scouts. Unfortunately, she showed them an injury and tore some tissue in her knee. She needed surgery and was given the painkiller Norco (hydrocodone). Masters got addicted to it, along with Oxycondone. She got into heroin right before college, and got her brother Adam addicted, too. He got sent to jail and died of an overdose in 2012.
"That sent my addiction into a hard-core downward spiral," Masters told Sports Illustrated. Her parents kicked her out of the house and sent her to rehab, but she'd ultimately relapse. Eventually, Masters did get clean.
But Why Would Someone Go From Painkillers To Heroin?
According to Sports Illustrated, 80 percent of users get into heroin after getting addicted opioids like Oxycodone, Morphine, and Vicodin (aka Hydrocodone). Heroin, which is an opiate drug, has a similar composition to the man-made opioid pills and offers more of a high. Heroin is also cheaper and more accessible on the streets. "It's an easy jump," Harris Stratyner, a New York City addiction specialist, told Sports Illustrated.
One in 15 people who have taken non-medical prescription painkillers will try heroin within 10 years, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. So Perfect High might not be based one on specific true story, but the realities behind the plot are chilling all the same.
Images: Duane Prentice/Lifetime