Taking a Look at the Heroin Epidemic and How It Affects Society

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Taking a Look at the Heroin Epidemic and How It Affects Society

Heroin is a major problem in American society, and the roots of the problem are sometimes hard to discern.  The issue is so ingrained in society that people ignore the repercussions. The reasons 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.  Nevertheless, heroin addicts can lose their position if the addiction reaches a breaking point.

The Source of the Heroin Epidemic

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. Over 200 million prescriptions are written annually for these drugs. Over 2 million people in the United States are dependent on a prescription drug. Heroin addicts total approximately 500,000.

The correlation between these two statistics and the heroin epidemic is that about half of all heroin users started out with prescribed opioid drugs. The user became dependent on the opioid.  They either stopped receiving the prescription from their doctor, or they decided to step up to injecting heroin. Heroin is easier to obtain and cheaper than prescription drugs.  Therefore, it is the substitute or “go to” drug. As a result, a large group of people becomes addicted to drugs 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.

Heroin Epidemic

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. Estimates show that the heroin epidemic costs nearly $22 billion annually. That number includes the estimated overall loss of productivity, the cost of criminal activity and incarceration, and the costs of resources dedicated to helping the issue. Of course, there are more efficient ways to go about dealing with the issue. Unfortunately,  the War on Drugs initiative still has the upper hand over logic and reason.

Heroin abuse is the cause of over 100,000 incarcerations yearly.  Also, about 11,000 deaths occur every year from addiction-related causes. 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. Inpatient care allows the user to focus on recovery and nothing else. A change in perception will help addicts choose recovery over imprisonment.

The Social Impact of the Heroin Epidemic

Opioid dependency can lead directly to heroin abuse. The family of an addict will deal with a whole host of issues, many of which could push a user 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 for the addict as well. Communicable diseases are 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.  Furthermore, 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.  Those who suffer from the addiction should not be treated like criminals.  Instead, they should be treated like the suffering individuals they are. The real cost of heroin addiction is high 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 get results.

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