How Did Heroin Become Such an Epidemic?

Heroin has been a problem in the country since the late 1800s. There were as many as 200,000 people addicted to heroin as far back as 1925. Heroin became a national and worldwide epidemic in the mid to late 20th century. Heroin use dropped for some time but recently started to increase again. The country now faces a renewed heroin epidemic that is affecting all types of people across all geographic areas. Heroin is now a major concern again for state governments, families and medical professionals. It has the potential to destroy lives more quickly than any other type of drug. Many complicated factors have contributed to the heroin epidemic affecting the country today.


One of the main reasons that heroin has become such an epidemic is accessibility. A large amount of heroin makes it into the country every year. Heroin is also produced inside of the country. Heroin is more easily accessible to teenagers and adults than some other illegal substances. This is especially true since hospitals and lawmakers started tightly restricting access to prescription medications that were slowly replacing heroin in some areas. There are many places in the country where heroin is commonly sold on street corners and in drug houses. Online services even exist where addicts can order heroin through a website and have it delivered straight to the front door of a home. Easy access has allowed heroin to make it into the largest and smallest communities in the country.

Low Cost

Another reason heroin is such an epidemic is the low cost of the drug. Heroin has always been somewhat inexpensive to make. This is especially true today. There are massive amounts of heroin being produced overseas for very little money. It is possible to get doses of heroin for just a few dollars. This is in stark contrast to many other types of illegal drugs that have only increased in price over the last few decades. Heroin has become a low-cost way to get high or to self-medicate. The low cost of heroin has allowed both the poor and rich to buy large amounts to feed a dangerous addiction.

Powerful Addictive Qualities

The powerful addictive qualities of heroin have helped to create the epidemic today. It is possible to become addicted to heroin in a very short amount of time. It could take just a few uses before a person becomes chemically dependent on the drug. Additionally, addicts start to build up a resistance to the opiates in heroin over time. This forces addicts to start using more and more heroin in order to maintain the highs experienced previously. It is incredibly difficult to stop using heroin once dependency has started. This has kept many people on heroin for a long time.

Media Portrayals

Media portrayals of heroin use and addiction have contributed to the epidemic. Heroin was once seen as something dangerous and destructive. Media portrayals of heroin use and heroin use by highly visible celebrities both started to change the image of the drug. Heroin is now sometimes seen as a glamorous drug used by the rich and famous. This attracts more people to the drug despite the severe health risks. Attitudes are changing slowly although the acceptance of heroin use in certain parts of society has already done significant damage.

Limited Access to Treatment

A problem that is allowing the epidemic to grow and continue is limited access to treatment. Recovery from heroin addiction requires professional treatment. Addicts need medically supervised detoxification in order to safely stop using the drug. There are too few treatment options in many parts of the country. Some rehabilitation centers have extensive waiting lists for patients. It can take six months or more to get into one of these facilities. It is very difficult to stop using heroin when professional treatment is not available. Fortunately, individual states and treatment centers are making an effort to expand services to help more people every year.

Withdrawal Symptoms

Heroin has become an epidemic because addicts continue using the drug and continue attracting new people to the dangerous addiction. A reason people stay addicted for so long is withdrawal. Heroin withdrawal can be life-threatening. Simply stopping could cause seizures, heart problems, and psychological issues. The feeling of withdrawal is often enough to drive someone back to using heroin. Avoiding withdrawal symptoms is also the reason why many people must increase the amount of heroin used over time.

Lack of Education about Heroin Abuse

A final factor that has to lead to a heroin epidemic is a lack of education about substance abuse. Few people were educated about the signs and symptoms of heroin abuse in the past. Few people today are fully aware of all the damage that heroin can do to the body. This allowed some heroin users to remain anonymous. It prevented some families from recognizing what was going on with a loved one. Education about heroin abuse is necessary today in order to help fight the growing epidemic.

Help is Waiting, Call Now:

Our programs

Welcome to The River Source, the place where new beginnings are created. We commend you for taking the first step in your recovery, and we want you to know that we are here for you.