The New Face of Heroin Addiction

At The River Source, we meet with many parents who moved their families out to the suburbs for a more stable life with good schools and safe neighborhoods. None could imagine that making this move from the city would actually put their teenage children closer to the drug culture. But this is what many suburbs across the United States are seeing in their teens; an increase in the use of heroin.

The Suburban Lifestyle is Not a Safety Net

It’s true that heroin is back on the rise. Addicts share the details for why heroin is the drug of choice; it’s cheap, easily attainable and purer than in the past. Although many addicts do end up shooting up over time, many start off by snorting or smoking the drug. But heroin users are not the poor, undereducated individuals that you may believe them to be. Many of them are athletes, cheerleaders, honor students. This is startling and even frightening for parents, especially those who have routinely found stability and tranquility in the suburban lifestyle.

Sometimes, the suburbs can give families a false sense of reality. Parents believe that their kids won’t touch prescription medications or that a drug as potent as heroin exists in their neighborhood. When speaking with many of our own patients and their families, they say they wish they hadn’t been so blinded by the fact that they lived in a safe, suburban neighborhood.

Chicago Police Capt. John Roberts, founder of the Heroin Epidemic Relief Organization, knows firsthand how frequent heroin use is in the suburbs after losing his 19-year-old son to a heroin overdose. He states, “Kids in the city know not to touch it [heroin], but the message never got out to the suburbs.”

Startling Statistics of Heroin Use

Recent statistics from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration report that the rate of young adult deaths from heroin have more than doubled over the past decade, with 90 percent of teen heroin addicts being white.

Officials have also seen a significant increase in Mexican heroin production over the past few years; 7 metric tons in 2002 to 50 metric tons in 2011. Living near a city also puts kids more at risk. They know they can score the drug at any point in time and fulfill their high. That’s why the suburbs of Chicago, New York, Saint Louis and Pittsburg are seeing high rates of heroin use; their teens have a direct route for a steady supply of heroin.

The Relationship between Painkillers and Heroin

So why exactly is heroin such a problem in the suburbs and not in the city?

Obviously the biggest factor is the relationship between prescription painkillers and heroin. Teens are getting their first doses of illegal drugs directly from their parents’ and grandparents’ medicine cabinets. Say that a grandparent has a root canal done and only takes one of the pain pills, leaving the other 20 pills in the medicine cabinet. Their teenage grandson then takes the pills, distributes them to friends and takes some himself. This is the start to a dependency on prescription drugs, and kids will continue seeking all types of prescription pills from their own parents, grandparents and friends’ parents.

When prescription drugs run low on supply, kids then head to the street to get what they need. Yet prescription pain pills are expensive, some costing as much as $80 a pill. Heroin seems to be the next logical choice, only costing a few dollars for a high and being much purer than in the past, which means it can be smoked or snorted. Over time, heroin addicts eventually do begin shooting up.

Heroin Addiction is a Long-Term Battle

The problem with heroin is that it takes just one time. A young teen can try the drug at a party, and it could start the pattern for long-term heroin use. This is one drug that can’t just be used socially, so parents must be able familiar with the signs and symptoms of heroin addiction. They must also be proactive, locking up and accounting for all prescription medication.

The River Source counselors are seeing more young teens who are struggling with addiction, and many of these teens come from affluent, two-parent households, not fitting the traditional drug user profile. What this has taught our team is that no one is exempt from the drug culture, and we must actively teach our youth about the dangers and lifelong hurdles of all drugs, whether it be seeming innocent pain pills or the very intoxicating heroin.

If you or a loved one is suffering from a heroin addiction, contact our team today at 866-294-9331.

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