Heroin is a major problem in American society, and the roots of the problem are sometimes hard to flesh out. Not only that, but the issue is so ingrained in society that many people often ignore the side effects of such an excessive dependence on opioids. The reason behind the heroin epidemic may be surprising, especially when you realize that the problem is a lot closer to home than you may have thought. It isn’t just the lowest rungs of society that are suffering from heroin addiction. In fact, heroin is more typical of the higher sects of society, although heroin addicts can quickly lose their position if their addiction reaches a breaking point.
The Source of Heroin Addiction
Heroin is produced by processing opioid precursors like the poppy seed into a form that is similar to legal prescription opioids that are commonly handed out in doctor’s offices across the United States. The two most popularly prescribed legal drugs in this category are hydrocodone and oxycodone. These two drugs accounted for over 200 million prescriptions in 2013 alone. It is estimated that over 2 million people in the United States suffer from some form of prescription drug dependence, and nearly another 500,000 suffer from heroin addiction.
The correlation between these two statistics is that about half of all heroin users started off by being prescribed opioid drugs from a doctor. The user became dependent on the opioid, and either stopped receiving the prescription from their doctor, or they only decided to step up to injecting heroin since it is easier to obtain and cheaper than prescription drugs. The result is a huge class of people who might become addicted to drugs only because a medical professional decides to prescribe hydrocodone to alleviate minor pains. This core issue of over-prescribing these powerful drugs is perhaps the most important in the entire debate about heroin addiction and its effects on society.
The Costs of Addiction
Heroin is not one of the more popular illegal drugs in the country, but it still accounts for about 5 percent of all substance abuse. It has been estimated that the heroin epidemic costs nearly $22 billion annually. That number is determined by the estimated overall loss of productivity, the cost of criminal activity and incarceration, and the loss of resources dedicated to helping the issue. Of course, there are more efficient ways to go about dealing with the issue, but the War on Drugs initiative still has the upper hand over logic and reason.
Nearly 100,000 people are incarcerated each year solely for heroin abuse, and about 11,000 people die every year from their addiction. Heroin is responsible for over 500,000 annual cases of diseases that could have been prevented. Inpatient care is often the only option left to heroin addicts, but the benefits are far preferable to spending time in jail for a disease you can’t control. In-patient care allows the user to focus on recovery and nothing else. If society could change the way heroin addiction is perceived, then perhaps addicts will be able to choose recovery over prison.
The Social Impact of the Heroin Epidemic
Opioid dependency, which often leads directly to heroin abuse, is a huge social issue. The family of an addict may have to deal with a whole host of issues, many of which could push an addict further down the rabbit hole. Heroin addiction can end marriages, cause child abuse, lead to failed friendships, and even legal ramifications like criminal charges or loss of child custody.
Heroin addiction can lead to a whole host of medical issues within the addict as well. Communicable diseases are more rampant in the heroin community due to sharing needles and a general atmosphere of filth. HIV and hepatitis are just a few of the horrible diseases an addict might contract, and they often have no insurance or means of paying for treatment. That means if an addict seeks treatment under the current system, the cost of the treatment is often deferred to the rest of society.
The Future of Heroin Addiction
Society widely accepts that the War on Drugs has failed miserably, but it often takes the government a while to catch up with public sentiment and the reality of the world in general. Once the truth of the substance abuse problems associated with the drug is brought to light, it will become apparent that heroin addiction is a disease just like any other. Those who suffer from the addiction should not be treated like criminals, but like the suffering patients they are. The real cost of heroin addiction is only as high as it is because of the way society views the condition. Once enough truth has spread, there will be no need for wasting money on a battle that doesn’t exist.