Heroin use is spreading rapidly and affecting large numbers of upper-income people in addition to more women and non-Hispanic whites. Many experts attribute the growth in heroin use to widespread opiate painkiller abuse. To understand why people are switching to heroin, we have to look at prescription painkiller abuse.
Part of the problem began when the government cracked down on non-medical use of prescription medications. The pharmaceutical companies had to alter the medications to make them harder to crush, and as a result, the drugs became more expensive. Someone who is already addicted to the pills has to find cheaper alternatives. Heroin is the first choice because it produces the same euphoric effects as painkillers, but it is much less expensive.
The image of heroin use is changing. A drug that was once associated mostly with poor inner cities has found its way into the upper-income suburbs and exclusive neighborhoods. In some areas, drug dealers make personal deliveries to their high-class clients and even run specials to attract more customers.
Dangers of Switching to Heroin
More and more people are choosing heroin as a drug of choice due to the stricter rules and prescription drug crackdowns. The new prescription drugs like Oxycontin are priced from $30 to $80 a pill. Heroin can be found for about $10 a bag on the streets. But, this money-saving benefit comes with some deadly repercussions.
When people switch to heroin, they don’t know anything about the purity of the drug and aren’t familiar with the dosages. Each batch of heroin is different from the last. This lack of knowledge has caused thousands of overdose deaths. In fact, heroin was involved in more than 213,119 ER visits in one year alone. Deaths from heroin overdose reached frightening proportions with more than 115 Americans dying each day after switching to heroin and overdosing on the drug.
What is Being Done to Combat Heroin Use?
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is taking an aggressive approach to combating the heroin and opioid crisis in America. At the National RX Drug Abuse and Heroin Summit in April 2018, they launched the HEAL (Helping to End Addiction Long-term) Initiative. This initiative will seek innovative, effective solutions to the opioid problem. NIH has also increased funding for research on opioid abuse and addiction from $600 million to $1.1 billion for the fiscal year 2018.
The goals of HEAL include the following:
- Discover more effective, non-addictive methods for managing chronic pain;
- Improve treatment methods for opioid addiction;
- Bring evidence-based changes to our healthcare system;
- Advance understanding of the genetic and social factors that contribute to drug abuse.
Of course, HEAL is only one of many initiatives that are dedicated to preventing opioid and heroin addictions and deaths. Each state is playing a role in efforts to combat addiction in our nation. Some of the things they are doing include:
- Addressing the heroin risk factors for addiction such as prescription opioids;
- Providing more access to opioid addiction treatment services such as MAT;
- Expanding training for administering naloxone to reduce overdose deaths;
- Improving access to prevention services such as sterile injection equipment.
The heroin epidemic in America is the result of a decades-long increase in painkiller abuse and addiction. Heroin was once considered an urban drug, but it has found its way into small towns, suburbs, and high society. With the increased heroin abuse comes an increase in drug-related crime. Even if you aren’t a drug user, you may find yourself affected by it in some abstract way. Addicts will do just about anything to get their next fix, and they don’t care who they steal from or harm in their drug-seeking.
If you would like more information about people switching to heroin, contact us at our toll-free number today. If you or someone you love needs help for opioid addiction, we can help. Call today.