The portrait of opioid addiction in the United States has taken on a very different hue.
Half a century ago, opioid addiction typically began with heroin. Young men from low-income neighborhoods were the most likely candidates–usually starting around age sixteen.
Nowadays, narcotic addiction begins within the stark, white walls of a doctor’s office. What begins as pain management through the use of OxyContin, Percoset and Vicodin unwittingly becomes addiction. And when those opioids aren’t enough, addicts turn to heroin.
What Are Opioids
Also known as narcotics, opioids are any drugs–legal or illicit–derived from opium. Morphine, oxycontin, codeine and heroin are just a few examples of opioids.
All narcotics affect the brain in the same manner, producing an increase in pain tolerance, drowsiness and euphoria. Additionally, they all trigger tolerance, meaning that continual use ceases to create the same effects and the user then has to increase the dose. Cravings begin at this point, and the user will experience withdrawal symptoms if he stops taking the drug. These symptoms mirror the signs of illness, such as runny nose, cough, nausea, vomiting, broken sleep patterns, and so on.
Opioids are known to be some of the most addictive substances known to man.
Heroin is a synthetic opioid. Although it was once a legal painkiller, it is now a Schedule 1 controlled substance, meaning that it has no medical use, has a high potential for abuse, and is considered unsafe to use.
Those addicted to prescription drugs often find all manner of clever ways to get their hands on more pills. Feigning illness and pain, shopping doctors, finding pharmacists who are willing to make extra cash on the side–these are all ways that pill addicts get their next high.
When these options run out, however, where do they turn? That’s right, heroin. Its properties are the same, and it’s cheaper. In fact, one can buy the same amount of heroin for one-tenth the price of prescription drugs.
Who Are Heroin Addicts
You may be surprised to find out who is addicted to heroin these days. They are more familiar than you know.
The typical heroin user today starts using at age 23, comes from an affluent neighborhood, and wouldn’t ever be considered a “junkie”. In fact, the list includes police officers, lawyers, nurses and ministers–you name it. Their stories are all the same–they got hooked on pills, and now it’s heroin.
The prescription drug epidemic is at astronomical levels in the United States. In fact, 80 percent of the world’s prescription drugs are consumed in this country alone–which contains only 5 percent of the world’s population.
The Solution to Heroin Treatment
The pill problem is clear. More Americans die from accidental prescription drug overdose every year than from car accidents. Lives are destroyed, families broken, personal pride is shattered as men and women end up on their knees under the weight of opioid addiction. What is there to do about it?
Tighter restrictions are being implemented across the country. Physicians are less inclined to prescribe medications, pharmacies are more tightly regulated, and drugs have been altered in an attempt to prevent abuse. For example, in 2010, the producers of Oxycontin released a version of the drug that could not be easily crushed or dissolved in water, thereby deterring injection or inhalation. As a result, the last two years have seen Oxycontin abuse drop from 35.6% to 12.8%.
However, such a “solution” only contributed to the heroin problem as addicts were not to be stopped by drug company restrictions. The real solution lies in drug education and rehabilitation.