Heroin abuse and heroin addiction have been horrible sounding phrases in our society for ever. Most people relate those words to someone who is destitute or downtrodden, living on the streets, using dirty needles, begging for money, robbing people and just wasting their lives as a dirty low life human being. Most people view heroin addiction as some other world or somebody else’s problem, not theirs. Times have changed over the past couple of decades though. Heroin never left the destitute and it definitely still ravages in low income areas, but it has expanded its presence to suburbs and affluent neighborhoods in staggering numbers. Reality dictates that it is probably within a short distance from anyone reading this or maybe even in your home. It has been and still it a growing epidemic that kills thousands every year.
With the onslaught of highly addictive opioid prescription drugs like Oxycontin, Percocet, Vicodin, Dilaudid, and Morphine into our society, people were becoming dependent on these drugs and a new epidemic was created. All levels of socioeconomics were affected and our world changed forever for the worse. Pills that many people had in their medicine cabinets, left over from an operation or a pain condition became a very hot commodity and a target for any opioid pill addict. Most found that they couldn’t afford the pills once addicted to them and at an average of $1 per milligram, people had to both stop using and go through withdrawal or find another source. Withdrawal symptoms are usually unsuspected by the user at first but once the person experiences them, the alternative source becomes heroin, also an extremely potent opioid so it completely handles the withdrawal symptoms. With the cost of heroin at about a 10th of the cost of pain pills on the street, the stigma of heroin is overlooked and now becomes the new drug of choice.
Heroin can be snorted, swallowed, smoked or injected, either in a muscle or intravenously. Depending on where it is purchased, it will come in a white or grey powder (China White) or dark sticky tar (Black Tar). The purity levels are higher than ever to produce more sales for the dealers and a better high for the addict. The better it is, the more they’ll come back. But just how the opiate pain killers became too expensive, so does heroin. An addict reaches tolerance levels whereas the usual quantities don’t produce the same high as they once did and therefore it takes more to achieve it, which costs more. An addict will spend every dime to get the high and to avoid going through withdrawal. Every day is another day that a heroin addict has to have his or her fix or else they face going through a cold turkey withdrawal. Going through withdrawal is out of the question for addicts because of its horrible mental physical effects, in other words, consequences. Parents, spouses, siblings etc. begin to realize that their medications have been taken, their money has been tapped into and their belongings are missing. Pawn shops are a quick way to get a little cash for expensive items and in turn, the heroin.
Families are virtually tortured with heroin addiction, trying to understand what their loved one is going through. Love gets in the way of logic because manipulation is the only way to live as an addict. Families enable to help but in fact the enabling is hurting the chances of helping them. Getting found out and having to stop and go through withdrawal and a rehab program is the last thing the addiction wants an addict to do. It literally has full control over the person physically and mentally. Emotionally a person becomes numb to everything, including love. Every ounce of energy has to be focused on finding the drugs for the day and then the next. It is a never ending trap until something happens to curb the addicted one. Once daily use has begun, it usually only takes a week or two for a person’s body to become dependent on the drug.
Liver disease including Hepatitis B & C are very common with IV users. Overdoses are so common that many states have implemented allowances for access to drugs to families of addicts that reverse the effects of the opiates in the body. Emergency rooms see constant waves of overdoses, many because dealers cut the heroin with Fentanyl (60-80 times stronger than heroin). Families live torturous lives because they don’t understand how to help the one they love. The list goes on. Heroin has a grasp on our country, and our kids. It’s more available than one would normally expect and very cheap to start a habit. Kids are selling it to each other in school and ruining each others’ lives. Good people who once had great lives going on and bright futures ahead of them are now living lives of crime and deceit because of the grip heroin has on them. It is in fact a growing epidemic.
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