Heroin Deaths Quadruple
Heroin has always had a reputation of being an “underworld” drug, only found in lower strata of the urban social sphere, but its use has grown rapidly throughout society. A recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that deaths from heroin overdose quadrupled between the years of 2000 and 2013, putting new emphasis on the need for education and rehabilitation measures.
History of Heroin
Heroin, derived from opium, had its beginnings in Asia. It made its way to the United States with the Chinese workers who came to the burgeoning West to work on building the railroads. The derivative, morphine, was developed in 1810 and was used in medical procedures to reduce pain. In 1874, heroin, another form derived from opium, was developed in Germany. It was marketed as being safe and non-addictive, but this was not the case. By 1920, Congress enacted the Dangerous Drug Act which made all of these substances illegal, but an underground market of addicts kept the money flowing.
The purity of the product increased when Colombian traffickers began undercutting previous Asian suppliers in New York City. The price of heroin dropped dramatically between 1988 and 1995, falling as much as 50 percent in 19 of the largest cities in America.
The Lure of Heroin
Heroin produces powerful effects on the brain, creating feelings of euphoria, as well as feelings of safety, calm and acceptance of others. It was often used by those living in deprived living conditions to allow them to withstand the daily assault on their humanity. However, it frequently crossed over to more affluent groups who were open to experimentation. Throughout the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s, a number of drugs went in and out of fashion, but heroin maintained a foothold in American society in some quarters. In 2012, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that 669,000 Americans reported using heroin in the past year. The number of people who tried heroin for the first time was 156,000, double the number reported in 2006.
Heroin Grows in Popularity
In the 1990s and 2000s, prescription drugs became the top choice among substance abusers. Legislatures around the country clamped down on “pill mill” doctors who made a good living providing prescription medication for addicts. As the supply of prescription drugs dried up, heroin came back into favor with addicts, looking to find that same smooth euphoria and sense of calm that opioid medications provided. Between the years of 2000 and 2013, the deaths from heroin quadrupled, with a tripling of heroin deaths in just the last two years of the decade. The switch from prescription medications to heroin made it clear that heroin addiction had become one of the most pressing problems in the substance abuse treatment community. Inpatient treatment is often the best way to help these addicts recover from their addiction and resume their normal lives.
Heroin users can be at increased risk for overdose deaths because of the nature of the drug. Opioids act on the part of the brain that regulates breathing. In addition, the effects of heroin and other opioids can vary greatly, depending on weight, strength of the dose and the degree of tolerance to the drug. Unaware of these changing factors, the addict can easily slip into unconsciousness and death.
Changes in Heroin Death Demographics
In previous periods, heroin use was mainly found in black urban communities. However, over recent years, the trend has indicated increased use in white communities. The drug has been gradually moving into suburban communities and rural communities. Heroin addicts are no longer the urban poor. Rather, they are middle class suburbanites with good jobs and nice homes whose lives have taken a dramatic turn into addiction. These circumstances can cause additional problems with rehab and recovery efforts, as the addicts return to a more affluent life that allows them to return to drug use easily.
Preventing Deaths with Naloxone
The rising death rate from heroin overdose is causing concerned activists to lobby for police to carry naloxone along with them, to be administered for any suspected heroin overdose call. Naloxone is a type of drug called an “opioid antagonist.” It works by blocking the effects of the opioid and can be successfully used to prevent deaths from overdose. The widespread use of naloxone among first responders can help to reduce the number of deaths from heroin overdose.
Heroin Addiction Treatment
Heroin addiction, like other opioid addictions, is a complex disease that requires intensive treatment of a number of issues. Detoxification and rehabilitation requires time and effort to help the individual break free of the chemical addiction and re-learn methods of dealing with everyday stress and emotional problems. Residential, inpatient treatment facilities offer a variety of counseling options to help the addict deal with the emotional issues that have led them into addiction. They also provide a number of activities to help patients find effective alternatives for dealing with stress and the cravings that lead to relapse.
The recent data emphasizes the need to concentrate on heroin inpatient treatment programs throughout America to help lower these dramatic statistics to prevent deaths from overdose and allow heroin addicts the opportunity to restore their lives to normalcy.