The New Face of Heroin Addiction

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Heroin addiction has often been associated with unclean needles, shady hotel rooms and lower income individuals. The drug has been considered ‘dirty’ because of the track marks left behind in the arms and the sharing of hypodermic needles. But this image is quickly changing, and a number of affluent teenagers from the suburbs are surfacing as the new users of heroin.

Why Heroin Use is Increasing

Experts say that the rise in heroin addiction is directly linked to the widespread use and acceptance of painkillers. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the use of pain medications has increased significantly because of a more aggressive approach toward treating and managing pain. With so many prescriptions being written to people who don’t really need them in the first place, a new epidemic of misuse and abuse has occurred.

An interesting study published this year by the Centers for Disease Control found that the majority of prescription drug abusers get their drugs from friends and family, not from drug dealers. This confirms the fact that people are too lax about the medications they keep in their home, and this is where curious kids and teens start their experimentation.

Studies like this are not intended to place blame on parents, but instead make them aware that no family is exempt from addiction. Everyone needs to take responsibility for their medications to protect their children, their children’s friends and others who come into the home. Unfortunately, many families have no idea what types of medications they have or in what quantities.

A False Image Leads to More Problems

Pain pills are addictive and dangerous, but they don’t have the same harmful image as other substances do, which is not a good thing. Since pain medications are prescribed by a doctor, young users have the false impression that the drugs are safe. Also, since pain medications are not illegal, users feel that they aren’t doing anything wrong. There’s nothing to hide and nothing to feel guilty about.

The truth is that opioid painkillers are highly addictive. Even though they are prescribed by doctors to treat and manage pain, their intent is to be used in extreme cases and under the careful supervision of a doctor. Unfortunately, these substances are widely abused, and this sets the stage for addiction.

Users find themselves in a downward spiral. They become obsessed with getting more pain pills. They aren’t afraid to mix the drugs with other substances. They won’t hesitate to look through the cabinets of friends and family to find more.

Why Prescription Pill Abusers Turn to Heroin

Pain pills can easily run low in supply, especially because they need to be obtained from a written prescription. For this reason, pain pills are very expensive because of the street demand for them. One tablet can cost as much as $80, making the habit an expensive one to support. On the other hand, heroin can be purchased for $10 a bag and provides users with similar experience.

Early on, a user who is simply experimenting with pain pills may never dream of using heroin, but when addiction sets in, the rational mind is no longer in control. When painkillers are not available or can no longer be afforded, heroin is the next step. Heroin is cheap, it’s easy to obtain and it has a cleaner image than in years past. Young users are just as likely to sniff or smoke the drug.

Heroin Addiction is Everywhere

Heroin addiction does not fit a particular profile. It can happen to anyone regardless of their age, socioeconomic status, family background or education level. We’ve seen some of Hollywood’s finest be robbed of their lives due to heroin addiction.

Actor Cory Monteith’s death last year was a real eye opener for our nation. Monteith was young, successful and sported a squeaky clean image. He was treated for his addiction, but ultimately fell back to using and died alone is his hotel room from a heroin overdose. Actor Philip Seymour Hoffman was another example of how devastating heroin is. A well-known actor and family man, Hoffman did seek help for his addiction and was clean for over two decades. He relapsed after 23 years, and it wasn’t long after that heroin claimed his life, too.

What we can learn from deaths like these is that heroin addiction can happen to anyone, and recovery is a long-term commitment. Even though heroin is a tough drug to stop using, it is very possible. With education, holistic treatment and relapse prevention programs, a difference can be made.