Heroin is a drug in the opioid analgesic family. It was developed as a painkiller and the strong sense of euphoria it produces in the user has made it a popular recreational drug. Heroin, like all opioid drugs, has a risk of dependency when used regularly. Heroin addiction is characterized by tolerance, the user must take more of the drug to achieve the same effect, and by withdrawal; the addict will become physically sick when they stop using the drug. Withdrawal and craving are two of the most prominent factors for a heroin addict being unable to quit using the drug.
Heroin is considered a taboo drug and for this reason most people are uneducated or misinformed about it. There are many misconceptions and myths associated with heroin, heroin addicts, and heroin addiction in general.
Separating Fact from Fiction – Common Myths About Heroin
1. Heroin is not addictive if you smoke or snort it.
Heroin is an addictive substance regardless of the way it is being used. While certain risks like contracting an infectious disease like HIV or Hepatitis C may be avoided by not injecting it the risk of dependency is the same. The risk of overdose is still present and all heroin users are subject to a dangerous lifestyle due to its illicit nature.
2. Heroin is an inner city drug that only affects low-income populations.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that 14.1% of people who were admitted into publicly funded substance abuse treatment programs were heroin addicts. The Robert Crown Center for Health Educationrecently reported that heroin discharges from treatment centers had risen 200% between 1998 and 2007 for users ages 20 -24 in the counties surrounding Chicago. This would indicate that heroin use is on the rise in the suburbs and does not only affect people in the inner city.
3. Heroin addicts are generally older people.
The National Survey on Drug Use and Health has published that the average age for first time use of heroin among people aged 12 – 49 in 2010 was 21.3 years old. This number had dropped from 25.5 in 2009. They also reported that 11.6 percent of teenagers say it is easy to get heroin, that it is readily available to them, and that the percentage of teens aged 12 – 17 who perceived a risk of occasional heroin use had declined between 2002 through 2010.
The Robert Crown Center for Health Education report cites an increase in prescription drug abuse amongst teens as a contributing factor. Many teens who become addicted to opioid pills eventually turn to heroin as a cheaper alternative.
4. Heroin addicts suffer from a lack of willpower and should be able to quit and stay clean on their own.
Heroin addiction is characterized by tolerance plus physical and psychological dependence. If a dependent user abruptly stops using the drug they will experience withdrawal symptoms. Symptoms of opiate withdrawal may include vomiting, restlessness, diarrhea, muscle and bone pain, and insomnia. These symptoms along with severe craving, which can persist long after the addict has stopped using the drug, can trigger continued use and/or relapse. As a result addicts often need help to get and stay clean, usually in the form of a rehabilitation program.
Heroin Education Can Stop Myths
Despite the many heroin myths that are out there, the drug affects people of all ages and backgrounds. With the increase of prescription drug abuse switching to heroin has lost its stigma. Many parents need to realize that heroin education is essential regardless of their geographic location or social status. Schools also need to realize that heroin is available to their students and that lack of education or misinformation could be fatal to their students.