The United States has had a rollercoaster relationship with heroin. Once upon a time, the key component of heroin—raw opium—was used in hundreds of different medical preparations and peddled all over the country. Adults would use these preparations for everything from treating their own colds to helping quiet fussy babies. Eventually, we got wise to the fact that opium, heroin and their chemical cousins were incredibly addictive and dangerous to our health, as well. The United States government finally stepped in and made these drugs illegal, but not before they had started hundreds of thousands of Americans down the path to drug addiction.
In the 20th century, purified heroin started to hit the streets of America’s big cities. Drug users injected the drug straight into their veins, creating an incredible high that could hook a user on his or her first try. This type of administration also compounded the health risks of taking the drug, and overdose deaths from heroin became an epidemic towards the end of the century.
For a while it looked like heroin might be decreasing in popularity, but it has now roared back to life in the past few years.
Reasons for the Increase in Heroin Addiction
One possible reason for the huge number of new heroin addicts may be because of another addictive drug—prescription painkillers. Over-the-counter pain medications such as Vicodin and Percocet are meant to dull a patient’s pain after surgery or to manage constant pain problems, but users began abusing the drugs to get high. They would smash up the pills and snort them or mix them into water to create an injection-ready fluid.
When drug companies started altering their drug formulas to make it harder to abuse these drugs, addicts had to look for a replacement high. Since these prescription painkillers were already chemically similar to opioids, heroin seemed like a natural fit. It can give the same kind of powerful high, but one hit is much cheaper than a comparable dose of a prescription drug.
Because it is cheaper and also widely available, heroin has roared back as one of the most-abused drugs in America, and its popularity continues to increase.
Drug Use in New Jersey towns
For many years, the perception of drug use in our
country was that it was limited to only big cities. When you thought of drug users, you probably only thought of people hitting up dealers in the alleys of New York and Chicago. While these cities still do have major drug problems, heroin addiction is spreading to many other cities and towns, as well.
A recent article on Patch.com, for example, details the number of heroin abuse cases in 20 towns in New Jersey. It ranks these towns in the order of the number of cases they have had. It may not be a surprise that big cities like Newark and Jersey City head the list, but the top 20 also contains smaller towns as well. For example, Atlantic City is the 22nd biggest city in the state (per the 2010 census), but it is fourth in the number of heroin abuse cases reported in 2012. The small town of Toms River isn’t even in the top 50 biggest cities in the state, but it had the 8th most heroin abuse cases!
This information just goes to show that heroin addiction can happen everywhere. Communities need to take fast action to prevent the spread of this deadly drug in their areas starting right now.
Tomsriver.patch.com: 20 Towns With the Most Heroin and Opiate Abuse; Toms River is Eighth http://tomsriver.patch.com/groups/police-and-fire/p/20-towns-with-the-most-heroin-abuse-toms-river-on-list