When it comes to the heroin abuser, most people imagine someone who is destitute, maybe homeless, not necessarily of any specific ethnic background, and poor. But statistics are coming out more and more these days that is painting a different picture. It used to be that heroin was a poor man’s drug, made for people who lived in the inner cities. But it is being found that heroin is spreading outward into more rural areas like a plague.
It is being found that people who use heroin today are rather young and typically start out first using prescription painkillers, which are coming out to be more and more of gateway drugs than has previously been believed. And of these users, it is also being found that the majority of them are white suburban dwellers.
A survey of 9,000 patients at treatment centers around the country found that 90 percent of heroin users were white men and women. Most were relatively young — their average age was 23. And three-quarters said they first started not with heroin but with prescription opioids like OxyContin. It can be speculated that the reason why heroin users are so young is that due to the potency of today’s heroin, users typically either quit or simply do not survive for too long. In 2007, over 2,000 people died of heroin overdoses, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And 200,000 went to ERs after overdosing in 2008.
Earlier this year, a particularly potent batch of heroin circulating in Pennsylvania brought a string of overdose deaths. Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin has declared that his state is in the midst of a heroin crisis. And in Rhode Island, state health officials have asked police chiefs to give their officers Narcan and naloxone- antidotes that can reverse the effects of an overdose- for those situations when they are called to a scene of someone who is overdosing.
In contrast, when heroin first became popular in the '60s and '70s, most users were young minority men who lived in cities. "Heroin is not an inner-city problem anymore," says Dr. Theodore Cicero, a psychiatrist at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis who led the study of the treatment centers.
It has been described by heroin users that they prefer to use prescription painkillers, but they are a lot harder to get than street heroin. A single pill of OxyContin can cost up to $80 on the street, whereas a hit of heroin can go for about $10.
Heroin abuse is an ugly picture. Once someone starts, it tends to go that they get hooked from the first hit. It is so euphoric that they try to chase that high down for the rest of the time that they are using, not realizing that they have grown a mental and bodily tolerance to it. This is commonly referred to as “chasing the dragon”. As a result of this, they are most likely not going to experience the same level of pleasure that they did after that first high. They will keep trying and trying, using more and more, which is how people overdose so much.
Heroin users also share needles, as they cannot afford to get new ones or clean ones every time they use. They will use a dirty needle that someone else has used, which leads to the chances of contracting certain diseases like Hepatitis C and certain STDs, such as AIDS and HIV.
So, the world of heroin abuse is one that is grim and getting worse. If you or someone you know uses heroin at all, then please try to get yourself or them into the care of treatment and quit using it. The odds are not in favor of someone who uses heroin.