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Heroin Use in the U.S.

May 08, 2013 - 6 comments

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.      

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by shinty, May 09, 2013
I agree with tougher laws for the dealers, but NOT for addicts. I think it's terrible to lock someone up simply because they were "caught' with a drug which they happen to be addicted to. I don't know what to do with a dealer who is also addicted however. I guess treatment in a jail would be appropriate. I think treatment is obviously the answer. It has to be free treatment, or very low cost treatment since almost all an addict's funds tend to go to their drug of choice. The treatment also has to be easily accessible to all walks of life, so an addict might actually make it to a treatment center. As to what type of  treatment center should be available to the masses, I think it should be a treatment center that offers everything under one roof- methadone, suboxone, inpatient, outpatient, rapid detoxification, groups, AA,--everything under ONE roof. It is scary that heroin is so easy to obtain. I asked a group of 5 seniors in high school (in my hometown) if they knew where to obtain heroin. All but one kid said that they could have it within a few minutes! That means that it's already invaded that particular high school. It's a big problem that's not going to end well for a lot of people regardless of treatment I'm afraid.

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by CWKavinRAS, May 10, 2013
Dear Shinty,

Your wishes sounds like a dream. Obtainable treatment for all patients,  based on their individual history and needs . It seems that most treatment centers have the cookie cutter approach, they treat the disease like if affected all patients in the same way. I believe if we put judgment and shame aside, it will be a breakthrough already.

Avatar universal
by Hammilton, May 11, 2013
Since prohibition has never worked, why not put aside with morality for a moment and focus purely on a pragmatic approach.  Let's end the government sanctioning of some drugs over others and instead adopt a state sponsored tax and regulate scheme for all substances.  Taxes must be kept low enough to avoid the redevelopment of a black market but high enough to discourage overuse.

State sponsored drug programs might allow a certain amount of a variety of approved drugs per month for registered addicts (this was tried somewhat successfully in Mexico for a short period during the early part of the last century).  Approved drugs might include less-abusable partial agonists or pure agonists which produce less respiratory depression, making them uninjectable by the introduction of naltrexone coated beads would seem like a logical thing to do, since most overdose on heroin involves injection with a drug of unknown purity.

Mandate that proceeds of taxes go toward addiction rehabilitation and harm reduction programs, such as methadone and suboxone programs.

There will not be a cure to the epidemic until there is rational, not moral or fear-based regulation of drugs.

Avatar universal
by rekoa, May 17, 2013
Just thought I would drop a little "reality from the street" into the mix. (and everything you read is personal experience) Well I did experience everything I will write, but it was all in a DREAM. I don't think dreaming about drugs is against the law, right?

OK first a little history. Back around 1993 in Southern California. (LA)
Black Tar H was gaining popularity. This was for a number of reasons.
1. The cocaine craze of the 80's had run its course. People actually stopped it on there own. (sounds good right?) Well not so fast. I said people were saying no to the "Coke Dealer." I did not say people were clean. Your average user did a little math. They could get more "bang for his buck" with this new **** that was cheaper. It was NOT NEW, by the way. It's been around for a while. AND ON TOP OF THAT, you could make loads of this stuff with a buddy in your garage! That is what a drug user calls a win-win!
        You know what I'm talking about now, correct? Let's all say it together, METHAMPHETAMINE.

2. I'm going to stop writing now, because I have to go to work. (and I don't know if anyone is reading this, or getting anything out of it) So I will stop telling my dream story for now. Let me know if anyone out there wants to read the rest of the L.A. Drug scene's reality. Going all the way up to today. I will lay the whole thing out for the people on this site that have no clue, no personal experience with doing "street drugs."  (something tells me that allot of readers are ignorant of these things of which I have dreamt)

Avatar universal
by amberh1017, May 25, 2013
Heroin will be a popular drug because unfortunitly it is what the Cartels are pushing the hardest and is what is most rapidly crossing our borders on a daily bases. I used to live in a small upscale suburb of Los Angeles a predominantly white and asian american town where going to football games was a community event where a lot of kids in my high school had teachers that remembered their parents. While I was there the big thing was to smoke a little bit of weed or to drink a beer at a party. That was almost 10 years ago now 2 kids have died at that school from heroin over doses. The school has finally started yearly drug seminars where they invite parents and go over the warning signs of drug use. The problem in this upscale neighbor hood is that most families have both parents working and no one home until 6pm or later that gives 14-18 year olds hours a lone at home unsupervised and when the parents do get home they are usually more wrapped up in what is happening in their own lives that they do not notice how their children are changing before their eyes before it is to late and casual drug use or experimentation has turned into full blown addiction that will damage a young adults future. While treatment is an important part of beating the drug epidemic but the more pivotal action is prevention and education.

Avatar universal
by DeliriousNomad68, Jul 18, 2013
I will take the stance of the individual who suggested Limited legalization and take it one step further- full legalization of all drugs.

In the Prohibitionists efforts to act as the morality police and eliminate 'illicit' drugs from the face of the earth , they have forgotten one little fact: the demand for drugs will NEVER go away, which means that there will ALWAYS be a supply. Drugs of all kinds, from Opium in east Asia, to Coca in South America, to Peyote in Southwest America, to Marijuana worldwide- these drugs have been a celebrated part of society for THOUSANDS of years. There is no disputing this fact, and there is no disputing that even though "tougher laws" sound good on paper, they will do NOTHING to lower drug use. They may actually have unintended consequences, such as increasing the 'taboo' of drugs, thereby actually making them more attractive to young people. If you look at what has happened in Portugal, perhaps we may get a better understanding of human nature on this issue. In 2001, to the dismay of Prohibitionists and zealots everywhere, Portugal decriminalized ALL drugs. Of course opponents predicted an increase of Drug use. They were initially right, as drug use rates increased the first six months, however nowhere near the rates predicted by the alarmists. Twelve years later, Drug use rates among Portugals youth is the LOWEST in Europe, and HALF that of the United States! How can this be? It seems as if Portugals plan of Education and Treatment worked extremely well. Another unforeseen consequence was that decriminalization eliminated the 'taboo' , the 'cool' factor among the youth. That, combined with Education, is the key.
Now, Portugal will still ALWAYS have drug addicts, as will the rest of the world. Why we look down upon these people is beyond me. The fact is that addiction is a disease, so an addict needs his/her drugs like a diabetic needs insulin.
Another problem I have with Prohibitionists is "who died and made you God?" . Seriously- in a supposedly 'free' country, what right does Government have in dictating what a responsible adult american does in the privacy of his/her own home, as long as they aren't physically hurting someone else? To me the choice of whether or not to take ANY drugs is a question of personal choice, and falls under our founding fathers' constitutionally guaranteed right of "LIFE, LIBERTY, and the PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS", which it was in this country until 100 years ago.

You say Heroin is becoming popular? Yes, I know, and I will tell you that Heroin use will continue to SKYROCKET in the foreseeable future. The reason why is simple as well. Remember the fact that some percentage if the population will ALWAYS demand and use drugs? Well, the DEA's crusade against prescription pain medication diversion has been succesful. However, the unintended consequence of this action is that Drug users have substituted their Oxycodone, Hydrocodone, Oxymorphone, Morphine, etc. , with a substitute drug that is cheaper and far more dangerous in regards to overdosing and the impurities in the street Heroin that causes other illnesses. All the DEA's crusade has done is enrich the Mexican Cartels, who have taken advantage of the DEA's succesful crusade against prescription pills and have now stepped up their production of mainly Black Tar Heroin.

This has led me to look at our "War on Drugs" with a pragmatic eye. We spend over $50 BILLION per year of taxpayer money to fund the "War on Drugs". We spend Billions more housing over 50% of the prison population in this country that is incarcerated for non-violent drug offenses. (we have 5% of the worlds population, yet 25% of the prison population. Something is wrong there).

I feel that if we Legalize ALL drugs and focus our attention on Education, prevention, and treatment, like Portugal we will be better off in the long run. We will bring in $Billions of tax dollars instead of pouring $BILLIONS down the drain, reduce drug use rates, eliminate Street Gangs and the violence associated with them, and eliminate the Mexican Cartels ( have you ever really pondered how many billions of dollars the Cartels siphon out of our economy every year?). And, at the same time, we will restore FREEDOM to Americans - the freedom to do with their body as they want, without Big Brother in their lives dictating what they can imbibe.

So the way I conclude the situation is Legalization will be a win-win for everyone. Just my humble opinion.

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