Some people might think that heroin is the crotchety old man of abused drugs, having been used for centuries, even by great imaginary people, such as Sherlock Holmes (in the form of opium). Some might think that heroin has faded more into the background, with newer synthetic drugs such as meth and ecstasy taken its place. The truth is that heroin is alive and well in America, and it is taking more lives than ever before.
Philadelphia Heroin Addiction Epidemic
The city of Philadelphia knows the truth. Philadelphia is currently struggling with a heroin epidemic. City officials are now warning that a dangerous version of heroin is spreading through the city. The heroin is being mixed with an extremely powerful painkiller called “fentanyl”. It is a powerful narcotic, which is used to treat people who are in extreme pain. Fentanyl can be a white powder like heroin, but is 50 times stronger.
It suppresses receptors in the brain that involve respiration and breathing, which can make users stop breathing. Because it is so powerful, fentanyl can make heroin more attractive to addicts. It was thought to be the reason for 269 deaths in Philadelphia in 2006. Also, over the whole US that year, it killed more than 2,000 people. Now, the Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual Disability says that this new heroin and fentanyl drug combo has killed at least 28 people between March 3 and April 20. The department is awaiting test results on seven more people. This epidemic is affecting many neighborhoods in Philadelphia.
Some users may not even know they have purchased heroin that has been mixed with fentanyl. There’s no way to tell, because it is two white powders being mixed together, that look almost identical. Philadelphia city officials do not yet know where the fentanyl is being produced, who’s selling it, or what slang names that dealers and abusers might now be calling these dangerous combinations. In some cases, it was being manufactured outside the United States.
Heroin Now Cheaper
At the Police Executive Research Forum’s National Summit held recently in Washington D.C., local and federal officials talked about an increase in abuse of heroin and other opiate type drugs, and particularly on the fact that there is greater availability of higher purity heroin. It’s also now cheaper than stolen opiate prescription type drugs, costing from about $4 a bag in some places to $20 in others, making it making it the cheaper choice for addicts and abusers.
Many heroin addicts start out by abusing the opiate prescription type drugs, such as OxyContin, Vicodin, Percodan, etc., and then move to heroin when they can no longer afford to buy the stolen prescription drugs. Heroin also gives users a more intense high than can be had from the prescription drugs. Now adding the fentanyl pain-killer combination makes it even worse.
The symptoms of overdosing on fentanyl, heroin, or the fentanyl/heroin combination are all the same. Some of these include muscle spasms, bluish lips, reduced blood pressure, seizures, weak pulse, drowsiness, and cold clammy skin. Anyone with symptoms of drug abuse or overdose should be gotten to an emergency room immediately.
Philadelphia is called the “City of Brotherly Love,” from the Greek words for love (phileo) and brother (adelphos). This was the name given to the city by William Penn and the Quakers who originally settled there in the late 1600’s. In the spirit of that saying, we should all remember that it takes a group, a team, a brotherhood and sisterhood of people to help get an addict back on the path to health, clear thinking, and no need of chemical crutches to enable them to confront and deal with life.