May 08, 2013
During the past several years it seems there is no escaping the news about prescription drug use running rampant in the U.S. From our local communities to the national level, opiate-based medications like Vicodin and oxycodone have spurred an onslaught of addiction, crime and devastation to families and individual lives. Sadly, prescription painkiller abuse now also seems to be sparking a resurgence of heroin abuse. That’s right, heroin. The 2013 National Drug Control Strategy released by the Office of National Drug Control Policy, reported that a surge in heroin use across the nation has particularly affected young adults living in suburban and rural areas.
Having worked with thousands of patients seeking treatment for opiate dependency over the years, it’s extremely disturbing to see that heroin is becoming the drug of choice for an alarming number of young adults and professionals. Although heroin was once primarily considered a street drug, many people in suburban communities are finding it easier to access than prescription painkillers – and more affordable. As mindboggling as it may be, it’s true. The 2013 National Drug Control Strategy highlighted that heroin addiction, especially among 18-25-year-olds has grown, with approximately 68,000 seeking treatment in 2010, which was up from 43,000 in 2000.
Why is heroin easier for some to get than, say Vicodin? Well, with the increase in people illegally abusing prescription painkillers, these medications have become much more difficult – and more expensive – to obtain. Heroin on the other hand is unregulated, cheap and readily available from a local dealer. While government agencies and legislators are doing what they can to impose tighter regulations and monitoring programs, I think it’s important to be aware of this potential unintended consequence; users turning to other, more dangerous substances.
I truly feel it is our duty as a country to support action to help combat this problem, by not only adopting stricter laws for those found to be dealing heroin, but also offering more community programs and information on treatments to help those battling these addictions. Trading one drug for another is not the answer to dependency, and will only serve to cause more damage in the short and long term. How do you think we should be addressing heroin and prescription painkiller abuse in the U.S.? Please leave your comment below.