Heroin overdoses have skyrocketed. The ongoing heroin epidemic is spreading across the country. Drugs now kill more people than car accidents or shootings. It’s affecting America’s youth in disturbing numbers — from ASAM:
Adolescents (12 to 17 years old)
In 2014, 467,000 adolescents were current nonmedical users of pain reliever, with 168,000 having an addiction to prescription pain relievers.
In 2014, an estimated 28,000 adolescents had used heroin in the past year, and an estimated 16,000 were current heroin users.
Additionally, an estimated 18,000 adolescents had heroin a heroin use disorder in 2014.
People often share their unused pain relievers, unaware of the dangers of nonmedical opioid use.
Most adolescents who misuse prescription pain relievers are given them for free by a friend or relative.
The prescribing rates for prescription opioids among adolescents and young adults nearly doubled from 1994 to 2007.
So how does America deal with this problem? There are public information campaigns that’d be useful — the more information the better. If the information is sensational, hyperbolic and judgmental, it’ll likely be ineffective. For adolescents, straight forward information is always best. Acknowledging the allure to drugs is better than pretending heroin is a demon drug. The demonization of heroin has been tried over and over, and it’s never had much success. I suppose in the 60s, the demonization campaign had some effect on those who had never tried heroin, but the great majority of these people would never try it anyway. The demonization of heroin didn’t stop cocaine from becoming a popular drug.
It’s likely opioid use in general that’s created the current heroin epidemic. Opioids are over-prescribed. If the medical community wakes up, gets smart and slows the flow of opioids, it’ll likely slow the use of heroin. Healthcare providers need to better understand addiction — how to recognize addiction and how to deal with it. Cutting a patient off of opioids because they become addicted to them only drives the patient to the streets in search of relief from withdrawals, and this is where they’re introduced to heroin.
Heroin dealers know how to sell their product. The dealer will tell the person in withdrawal they don’t have to use a needle. The dealer will tell the person that heroin is an opiate and will give them the same relief as the Oxycodone. If the heroin is laced with Fentanyl, it won’t take much, and the powerful euphoric feeling, more powerful than prescribed opioids, will hook the person into using it again, and again, and again until, possibly, they use a little too much of a stronger batch and overdose. There are no controls on drugs sold on the street. Although the person was just as addicted to the opioids, when they start on heroin it introduces them to environmental, physical and legal dangers, and the slide down hill is faster and more dangerous. It would be best if medical professionals recognize addiction and deal with it like the medical condition it is, thus preventing the addict from getting lost in the world of drug dealers, social diseases, crime, etc.
I’m afraid that until there’s widespread knowledge of addiction and how to treat it, the ongoing heroin epidemic will continue. If you have a friend, co-worker or family member who has a problem, try to get them to talk to an addiction treatment professional — help is available. Tomorrow I’ll write about how opiate addiction treatment is no longer relegated to Methadone clinics — it’s treated with alcohol, cocaine, benzo and other drug addictions.