Heroin use was once the biggest drug epidemic in America. In the 60s and 70s, news media was awash with stories of the spread of this powerful and deadly drug. Many Americans felt they were safe from the drug affecting their lives, however, because they heard that it was primarily poor people in the big cities that were using the drug. A majority of our citizens were able to smugly go on living their lives in ignorance of the power of this drug, largely because they thought that getting hooked on it could only happen to “other people.”
While other drugs captured the headlines for much of the past few decades, heroin has now come back with a vengeance. It is making thousands of new addicts every week, and it is not sticking to just one demographic (if it ever really did.) Now it doesn’t seem to matter if you’re young or old, poor or rich, or even what race you are. Heroin is on the move, and every community is potentially in danger. How did it get this way? American researchers are finding several reasons for the spread of this drug.
Starting with Pills
Over the past several decades, doctors started to prescribe a lot more prescription painkillers for a startling variety of ailments. Powerful opioid drugs like Oxycontin and Vicodin were being prescribed for even minor back pain. What not everyone realized was that these painkillers were different than Tylenol or Advil. They were much more powerful, and they were chemically related to morphine and heroin.
While it’s not likely that you’ll ever have much trouble from side effects if you’re taking an over-the-counter painkiller, these new prescription painkillers are a completely different story. They are habit-forming drugs that could be abused easily by being ground into a powder and snorted. In addition to the users that intentionally tried to turn these pills into an illicit drug, many more patients accidentally got hooked on painkillers. When you are addicted to one opioid drug, starting to use another like heroin isn’t much of a leap of logic.
The Price Gap
It’s not likely that very many people would actually go out looking for heroin, however, if it wasn’t for one key fact: prescription drugs are expensive and hard to get. Your doctor is only going to prescribe you so many. You can try going to another doctor, but he may be sharing a database with your primary physician. You might not get the pills, but you also might get put on a watch list and end up talking to police officers.
Addicts turn to street dealers, but they also have trouble acquiring the drugs. A single pill can thus cost $80 or more. Facing a crippling addiction but not having the funds to feed it, many pill addicts will search for something else. The most likely alternative is heroin at only $10 a pop.
Cracking Down on Prescription Abuse
Compounding the problem is that in recent years communities have started to put a lot of effort into cracking down on prescription drug abuse. When the source of meds dries up for addicts, they have started flocking to heroin to get the similar high. Law enforcement thinks that it is making an impact, but they are largely just herding drug users from one substance to another.
In order to permanently change this outcome, we all need to support effective drug rehabilitation efforts. Instead of moving addicts around the system from one drug to another, we need to remove them from drug use altogether. When no one has the urge to use any type of drug, we’ll see these addicts return to lives of health, happiness and sobriety.
The Daily Courier: http://www.dcourier.com/main.asp?SectionID=1&SubSectionID=1&ArticleID=132626