Understanding the Modern Heroin Epidemic
Heroin has long been considered one of the deadliest and most damaging illegal drugs. Despite this awareness, recent years have seen a dramatic increase in heroin use and, sadly, overdose deaths. While media coverage of the epidemic has focused mostly on working-class, economically disadvantaged towns, the fact is that heroin use is on the rise everywhere. There is no one typical user, which makes identifying the problem — let alone taking action to address it —difficult.
How Did We Get Here?
The heroin crisis cannot be understood without first looking at the problem of Prescription Painkiller Use Disorder. While there are reasons to be skeptical about the idea of a “gateway drug,” the fact is that a large percentage of heroin users today became hooked after taking prescription opioids such as Percocet, codeine and fentanyl. These and similar drugs can serve a legitimate medical purpose, but their use has to be monitored carefully.
Opioid prescriptions reached an all-time high in 2011, but as awareness about the risks grew, numbers declined shortly thereafter. This had the unintended consequence of making these drugs more expensive and harder to obtain on the black market.
Heroin, on the other hand, is cheap and readily available in most parts of the country. Three-quarters of people with Heroin Use Disorder used prescription opioids first, while the CDC reports that opioid users are up to 40 times more likely to become dependent on heroin.
Why Heroin Is a Problem?
There are a number of things that make the current heroin epidemic a particularly troubling concern:
- Many individuals with Heroin Use Disorder don’t fit the typical profile of a drug user, which makes identifying it early difficult
- There is a much greater risk of overdose compared to other drugs, particularly among inexperienced users accustomed to the carefully regulated doses of prescription pills
- Getting help is hard — many treatment programs and other resources aren’t able to handle both the volume of patients and the unique circumstances surrounding the current epidemic
Fixing the broader problem will require significant changes to the way we talk about and treat Substance Use Disorders in the United States. In the meantime, however, there are options for people currently struggling with heroin.
Compassionate Care at 7 Summit Pathways
7 Summit Pathways offers state-of-the-art, interdisciplinary treatment plans for anyone suffering from Heroin Use Disorder. We offer 24-hour physician monitoring during the initial, medically assisted detoxification period and an evidence-based approach to managing withdrawal symptoms. Beyond that, our programming works to give you the emotional, physical, spiritual and other tools necessary for a lifelong Recovery.
If you or someone you love is struggling with Heroin Use Disorder, call today to speak with an intake counselor. The journey to the Summit begins with the first step.