Fifty-four years ago, lawmakers received their first warning. Father Peter Young informed the state lawmakers in Albany about heroin dangers infecting the inner-most corners of the city. Their response: it’s only an urban problem. No big deal. Now, it’s 2013. Heroin is still alive and pulsing through suburban neighborhoods at a climbing rate – even more than the urban areas. And while the poor are getting drug treatment help through federal programs like Medicaid, those options are not available for the suburban families.
“That doesn’t happen in this neighborhood”. We have all heard the saying, and most of the time it’s the furthest from the truth. Suburban areas now have a heroin problem that no one is confronting. Because of their strong beliefs that drug problems could ever happen in their families, suburban families have a tendency to put the blinders on and ignore sure signs of drug issues. Not in this neighborhood. Many heroin overdoses in suburban families could have been avoided if they had only confronted the truth: their loved one had a drug problem. Getting help could have saved their lives. An increased awareness about heroin, its properties and effects could have averted many of the problems before they started.
But sometimes, that help is not always available. The federally funded programs for poorer families are not available to the richer suburban. They have enough money to afford private insurance companies, but with private insurance come private rules. Private insurance companies have the option to place stipulations on what they will cover, and many will not cover inpatient or long-term drug treatment. But how is an addict supposed to recover from a drug problem when they are allowed to have access to those drugs? Forcing an addict to outpatient program is like making a gambler stay at a hotel with a 24 hour casino – the results will be unsurprisingly disappointing.
As heroin made more and more of a push in suburban areas, overdoses were reaching record highs. Something needed to be done; suburban neighborhoods were forced to face the heroin epidemic. Researchers began rushing to find a solution, and they found one: naloxone. Naloxone is a special narcotic that reverses overdose by opioids like heroin and prescription pain killers (experts believed that prescription opioids were a gateway drug to heroin for years). It can be administered nasally by friends and family in the most dangerous moments of overdose. In New York, a pilot program was implemented to expand the access to naloxone to paramedics, first responders, and other emergency staff members in hospitals. In its first year, emergency staff were able to reverse 200 cases of heroin overdose. The success of naloxone drove the approval of the drug, also known as Narcan, for use in most community ambulances all over New York. In the grip of a drug epidemic, the use of Narcan can save lives. “We need to get naloxone out there,” said Deputy Chief Peter Berry of the Colonie EMS Department. “This medication can save lives when put into the right hands.”
Education Averts Dangers
Increased awareness is necessary in neighborhoods where heroin is not a problem. As suburban areas are more likely to have prescription opioids, like painkillers, there is an increased risk for heroin. The opiate mimics the effects of a painkiller and is much cheaper and readily available. Educating a community about the dangers of heroin could reverse an increasing number of overdoses, and turn away heroin before it has a chance to infect the neighborhood.