Meet Your New Neighbors, OxyContin and Heroin

Heroin and Pills in the Suburbs

Back in the ‘70s, heroin use was on high alert.  But, many would say that the problem was more isolated to inner city minorities from major metropolitan areas.   It was not considered a problem for suburbanites or middle and upper classes.   That has changed as prescription opioid and heroin use has moved in to the suburbs and is prevalent among your neighbors.

Prescription painkiller use is skyrocketing, and with that comes a new path to heroin for today’s users.  Prescription opioids are currently the most popular drug of abuse, but users often next turn to heroin because it’s cheaper and easier to get.  One oxycodone pill can cost someone $80 on the street, versus a $10 hit of heroin. 

Today’s Heroin User

Think of a young, white suburbanite and you have today’s typical heroin user.  On average, recent studies have shown the vast majority (over 90 percent) of today’s heroin users are white men and women.  The average age is 23, and more and more young women, moms, and high school students are becoming addicted. 

Addiction problems are growing so much that some states such as Vermont have said the number of people in the state who need help from opioid addictions outnumbers the treatment options available to them.  To combat the increasing number of overdose deaths, state police in a growing number of states are now carrying antidotes that can reverse the effects of an overdose when they’re called to the scene.  These antidotes, Narcan and naloxone, are administered as a shot or a nasal spray and can reverse the effects of a heroin overdoes - if administered immediately. 

The Heroin Epidemic

There is a heroin epidemic in many states across the country.   This is not an issue that can be solved by stopping a death at the moment of overdose.  Instead, we need better mental health treatment options for those suffering from substance abuse issues, and people need to have long-term recovery options.  Addiction is a chronic condition; this is not a 28-day fix.

Addiction is an illness and with proper treatment one can achieve a lifetime of lasting recovery—not just abstinence, but also a significantly improved quality of life.   We need to change the conversation on addiction and substance use disorder and take a closer look at the opioids that are prescribed or that our loved ones are taking.   Sweeping under the rug the small signs that a loved one needs help and waiting for a large-scale disaster to happen, the proverbial ‘bottom’, before seeking help is putting a lot of lives at stake.    If we put more energy into intervening early, it could help stop this growing epidemic.