Drug overdose, as a category, is now the leading cause of accidental death in the U.S., with 52,404 lethal drug overdoses in 2015. Driving this epidemic is addiction to heroin and other opioids. Of the 20.5 million Americans with a substance use disorder in 2015, 591,000 of them had a heroin use disorder. 12,990 overdose deaths were related to heroin.1 This is more than 300% of the 2010 statistics.
Preventive actions, treatment for addiction, and proper response to overdoses can help turn the tide of this social, medical, and economic crisis in America.2 Naturally, many treatment options exist. Among those, Michael’s House is a highly respected center. We offer unique and effective programs for substance abuse and mental disorders. Evidence-based and comprehensive, our methodology works to treat the whole person – not just cherry-picked symptoms.
Heroin abuse can be devastating to the life of a user…as well as to the loved ones who surround that individual. We encourage anyone struggling with addiction to seek help before it’s too late. All lives are precious. We are here. And we care.
Tylar A. was a typical teenager. His journey to recovery from heroin addiction is hard to hear. It was even harder to live through. But Tyler is in the process of cleaning up his act now, as he shares with Heroes In Recovery.
“I went back home and overdosed [after rehab]. While at the hospital, my mom brought a picture to show me. It was a page of my daughter’s diary. [It read:] ‘My life is so hard because my dad is never around. My heart is broken into pieces.’ I was supposed to be her example, her everything, and be the person she looked up to. And there I was, a heroin addict who couldn’t get his act together. From that day forward, I vowed I would do everything it took to stay clean.”
The point to take away is this: Do what’s right. If not for you, then for those you love. Don’t be just a statistic on a heroin casualty list. Make your life count. Heroin is a highly dangerous opioid. Don’t mess with it. It can dramatically change lives. Seek professional help immediately if heroin is part of your life right now.
Heroin Is Riding the Opioid Wave
Rapidly growing in popularity nationwide, there are about 1.5 million frequent users of heroin in America, according to the Office of National Drug Control Policy. And this doesn’t include those people who report using heroin fewer than four days per month.3 Nearly every statistic related to heroin is on the rise this millennium.
As another example, 156,000 Americans started using heroin for the first time in 2012. That’s nearly double the number for 2007. 669,000 Americans have reported using heroin in the last year, according to the 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. That number has nearly doubled between 2005 and 2012.4 4.2 million Americans state that they have used heroin at least once in their life.5
The substance use disorder treatment admission rate in 2009 was six times the 1999 rate.1 Among these patients, heroin reportedly accounts for 14.1 percent of all admissions to publicly funded substance abuse treatment programs. The majority of people seeking treatment are Caucasians (60%). A disproportionate number of those treated are in their 20s (about 30%).6
Altogether, these dramatic numbers are largely attributable to the drug experimentation of young adults 18-25 years of age.2
Given that four in five heroin users started out misusing prescription painkillers, this figure is relevant: In 2012, 259 million prescriptions were written for opioids. That’s more than enough to give every adult American a bottle of these pills. In a 2014 survey, 94% of people in treatment for opioid addiction said they chose to use heroin rather than prescription opioids because the latter were “far more expensive and harder to obtain.”1
Also, since heroin is typically injected (rather than in pill form), there is danger of contaminated drug paraphernalia. “Shooting up” is linked to many dangerous diseases, including: HIV, hepatitis, sexually-transmitted infections, and other blood-borne illnesses. Furthermore, use of heroin promotes reckless endangerment to users’ health. This includes risky sexual behavior.4
“Heroin is the devil’s drug, man,” says Cliff Parker, former drug addict. Like his friends, he started using prescription painkillers at parties. It was fun. But by the time it stopped being fun, it was too late. Pills soon turned to heroin, and his life began slipping away from him.7
Are Teenagers As Vulnerable to Heroin Abuse?
An estimated 21,000 adolescents (12 to 17 year olds) used heroin in the past year, with about 5,000 current using it. About 6,000 had a heroin use disorder in 2014.6 Sadly, adults often share their unused painkillers with others. It could be that they are unaware of the dangers of nonmedical opioid use.
In any event, most adolescents who misuse prescription pain medications (a common gateway to heroin) are given them by a friend or relative.
Then there’s the experimental or recreational use of opioids. It is estimated that the nonmedical use of opioids costs insurance companies up to $72.5 billion annually in health-care payments. Legitimate painkiller prescriptions present enough of a problem to youth.
Those written for adolescents and young adults nearly doubled from 1994 to 2007.6
What About Women…and the Unborn?
Data indicates that women are more likely (than men) to have chronic pain. So, compared to men, they are prescribed more painkillers. They are given higher doses. And they take them for a longer duration. As a result, women are more prone to become drug dependent. 48,000 women died of opioid overdoses between 1999 and 2010. That’s a 400% increase in one decade. And the trend marches on in full force.
Furthermore, abuse of prescription painkillers by pregnant women can result in a variety of conditions in newborns, often referred to as neonatal abstinence syndrome. NAS increased by almost 300% in the U.S. between 2000 and 2009, driven by over-prescribing by doctors. It is estimated that 14.4% of pregnant women are prescribed an opioid during pregnancy.
Again, painkillers often lead to heroin use. So, in many cases, heroin — with unknown effects due to the fact that it is unregulated — presents an even greater threat to users…and the next generation.1
The Relationship Between Opioids and Heroin
Nationwide, the trend of switching from prescription opioids to heroin is in full swing. How does this happen?
Numerous factors may be at play in this substance transition:
- The emergence of chemical tolerance to prescribed opioids.
- Difficulty in obtaining a sufficient supply of these drugs.
- Reformulation of prescription opioids inhibits their abuse.
- More and more state mandates thwart “doctor shopping.”
- Cost and availability of heroin may be too enticing to refuse.
Heroin, like any street drug, may be laced not only with impurities and other unknown chemicals. Fentanyl is becoming one of the more scary possibilities. It can be very deadly.4
Naloxone, the antidote to overdose of heroin (or other opioids), has reversed more than 10,000 overdose cases between 1996 and 2010, according to the Centers for Disease Control. For many years, this drug was available only in an injectable form. It was carried only by medical emergency personnel. However, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently approved a new hand-held auto-injector of naloxone to reverse opioid overdose that is specifically designed to be administered by family members or caregivers.
Buprenorphine is also helpful – with or without naloxone – in significantly reducing opiate drug abuse and cravings.
An analysis that tracked patients given methadone from age 18 to 60 (for their problematic heroin use) indicated that for every dollar spent on methadone treatment, $38 in related economic benefits were yielded. Scientific research has established that medication-assisted treatment of opioid addiction is associated with decreases in the number of overdoses from heroin abuse and other related negative incidents. Since pain relievers are necessary, a healthy balance needs to be met between providing maximum relief from suffering and minimizing associated risks and adverse effects.8
There Is Hope for Heroin Addiction
At Michael’s House, the statistics are in our favor! We have a solid track record of success in treating patients with addictions to heroin and other highly potent substances, as well as other mental issues. Call us on our 24/7 toll-free line, 760.548.4032, for more information or to set up a visit or treatment reservation. Let us help you stop the downward spiral now. Hope is on the way!
1 “Opioid Addiction: 2016 Facts & Figures.” American Society of Addiction Medicine. Web. Accessed 28 July 2017.
2 “Opioids: The Prescription Drug & Heroin Overdose Epidemic.” U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.24 March 2016. Web. Accessed 28 July 2017.
3 “How Many Daily Heroin Users Are There in the U.S.? Somewhere between 60,000 and 1 Million. Maybe.” Forbes.10 March 2014. Web. Accessed 28 July 2017.
4 “Heroin.” National Institute on Drug Abuse. November 2014.Accessed 28 July 2017.
5 “Heroin.” DrugFacts, National Institute on Drug Abuse. April 2013.Accessed 28 July 2017.
6 “Key Substance Use and Mental Health Indicators in the United States: Results from the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.” Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. September 2016.Accessed 28 July 2017.
7 “Drug Deaths in America Are Rising Faster than Ever.” The New York Times.5 June 2017.Accessed 28 July 2017.
8 “Prescription Opioid and Heroin Abuse.” National Institute on Drug Abuse.29 April 2014.Accessed 28 July 2017.