The last five years have brought adversity to Minnesota, and it comes in the form of brightly-colored balloons. Not the kind you’d find at a birthday party—the kind that come in small, tightly wrapped packages, carrying one of the most dangerous drugs on earth.
Heroin floods the Twin Cities and Minnesota in the wake of a steady rise in prescription opioid abuse. As a result, overdose deaths have surged and heroin-related ER visits have more than tripled in the last eight years.
Minnesota communities are still reeling with the magnitude of the situation.
The Connection Between Prescription Drug Abuse and Heroin
Though prescription drug abuse has become far too common these days, it is still a shock when one discovers that a loved one has an addiction to pills. That medication that is so freely dished out by doctors is in fact a not-too-distant cousin to heroin. Both derive from the opium poppy, which is why their effects are so closely related.
Opioids, also known as narcotics, are among the world’s oldest drugs. These heavy sedatives cause decreased perception of pain, decreased reaction to pain, and increased tolerance of pain. This is why they are used in the medical field. They also produce a strong feeling of euphoria and are highly addictive.
How The Community is Coping
Law enforcement and treatment centers in Minnesota are still struggling with the best ways to approach the problem. State legislators are preparing bills to counter overdose deaths. Police departments across the state are setting up drug return boxes to pull prescription drugs off the streets and out of medicine cabinets (a common way to feed addiction). Schools are working to educate parents and students.
However, the truth is that this rise in heroin use does reflect a national trend. According to the US Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, use has nearly doubled since 2007.
Minneapolis is of particular concern because it happens to have some of the cheapest and purest heroin in the country. These drugs supposedly come from Mexico. Law enforcement will have to find clever ways to intercept this influx.
Dangers of Heroin
There are a number of risks involved with heroin use. Namely, heroin can cause:
- Decreased circulation and heart rate
- Stomach pain, constipation, nausea and vomiting
- Drowsiness, stupor or coma
- Decreased sexual drive
- Hyperventilation, as heroin suppresses the cough reflex and slows down breathing
- Lung disease
- Respiratory failure
Preventing Heroin Addiction
If you are concerned about your loved ones during these perilous times, there are things you can do to help prevent heroin addiction. Prevention is far easier than recovery.
The most effective thing you can do is educate others on the truth about heroin. Redundant as it may seem, you’d be surprised at the amount of false information out there about heroin, especially in schools. Teens are told it will make them feel like superman, it will make them better athletes, and that it will make them feel sexier and more confident. If they truly knew what it would do to their bodies and minds in the long run, however, they probably wouldn’t touch it. Statistically, this proves true.
Signs of Heroin Use
If you suspect that a loved one is using heroin but aren’t sure, look for the following signs:
- Constricted pupils and bloodshot eyes
- Unusual sleep patterns
- A generally unkempt appearance
- Watch for paraphernalia around the house such as syringes, small spoons, bits of kitchen foil, vials of water (used to dissolve the drug), tufts of cotton (used as filters), lighters, broken balloons, and so on.
If you discover that your loved one is using heroin, do not wait to confront them or stage an intervention. You could save their lives.