Heroin abuse is no longer a problem reserved for the inner city or the poorest neighborhoods; now the typical heroin addicts are young white teens and adults living in the suburbs. Part of the reason for this shift is the rise in prescription pain killer abuse which can be a gateway to heroin addiction.
Treatment centers throughout the country show that the majority of heroin addicts seeking help are white men and women around the age of 23 that began abusing drugs with prescription opoids before moving onto heroin. As more young people living in the suburbs get hooked on pain killers like Oxycontin, the level of heroin addiction also begins to rise in these neighborhoods.
Pain Killer Abuse in the Suburbs
Years ago in the 60s and 70s heroin addiction was a problem mainly experienced by male minorities living in the inner city that started using heroin in their teens without any other opoid use. Now 90 percent of heroin abusers are white and most of them start when they are a bit older in their early 20s. The increase in heroin abuse among suburban young adults has taken place over the last twenty years after prescription drugs like Oxycontin became more widely used in the 1990s.
White suburbanites have been abusing pain killers in large numbers and many of them begin injecting or inhaling them for a faster and more intense high. After developing an addiction to intravenous use of opoids like Percoset or Oxycontin, it does not take long for someone to end up switching to heroin which can actually be less expensive and more easily accessible. Because of this trend there has been a sudden rise in heroin abuse in the U.S. from 2006 to 2012 during which time the number of users nearly doubled.
Shift in Demographic for Heroin Abuse
The rate of heroin abuse in many U.S. suburbs has reached epidemic proportions, causing concern for these neighborhoods and the young adults that are abusing this dangerous drug. Even in the wealthiest and most desirable suburbs in the country, heroin rates have been rising as the typical addict continues to shift to the upper middle class. Heroin has been abused in the U.S. since the 40s but up until recently it has always been viewed as a drug used by the disadvantaged lower class.
Numerous studies in the 1970s showed that heroin was mainly an inner city problem. According to more recent data, the percentage of use of heroin by nonwhite groups has steadily declined as white heroin abuse has increased to an overwhelming majority. In addition to the demographic of heroin use changing, the total number of people using the drug has also dramatically increased. The past ten years have seen the rate of heroin use skyrocket to nearly 1.5 million chronic heroin users in the country.
The rise is not attributed to any users in minority groups but exclusively to the population of white suburban users that have become the new face of heroin addiction.
Regardless of the demographic, the overall growing numbers of heroin abusers are causing concern because of the corresponding increase in heroin-related deaths which have also doubled in the last decade. Recent statistics show that there are over 100 deaths caused by heroin overdose a day in the U.S.
Heroin has filled the increasing demand for opoids like Oxycontin or Percoset which are becoming less readily available and more expensive. White Americans in the suburbs are seeking heroin as an alternative after becoming seriously addicted to pain killers. Heroin abuse could potentially become an even greater problem in the U.S. if the rates of addiction continue in the same alarming trend.