The common assumption of what a heroin addict probably looks like is something of a rail-thin, sunken eyed homeless vagabond, with dirty hand extended pleading for whatever change is stowed in your pockets. This was certainly the case in the 1960s and ’70s when the highly addictive and fatal narcotic gained its notorious reputation; the average addict being a poor urban male, and of a minority. Although the results of a recent survey conducted by Dr. Theodore Cicero indicate otherwise. His study revealed that the average heroin addict is an actually a young Caucasian suburbanite.
The Average Heroin User
According to this new research the problem all starts with opioids… prescription painkillers like OxyContin and Percocet are the gateway drugs that, in turn, spiral into a mentally and physically debilitating heroin addiction. But when a single tablet of OxyContin commands a street price of $80, versus a hit of heroin costing only $10, the prospect of using heroin quickly becomes more attractive. A quote from an interviewee of Dr. Cicero’s study explains, “All of my friends use heroin, and I know multiple people who will sell it to me or help me find someone who has it. Also, if I have money, I wanna spend it on something I know will get me high. If I buy pills, I might not have enough money to make sure I get high.”
JAMA Psychiatry published the results of Cicero’s study called “The Changing Face of Heroin Use in the United States; A Retrospective Analysis of the Past 50 Years.” The survey of 9,000 patients from rehabilitation centers from around the country indicated that 90% of today’s heroin users are white men and women. The study indicated that the median age of male abusers was 16 years old, but the average age of men and women is 23 years old. 75% claimed that they had not used heroin before first trying the prescription opioid OxyContin. “Heroin is not an inner city problem anymore,” explains Dr. Cicero. Expensive perception medications are acting as the catalyst for the suburban youth seeking a cheap but lethal alternative: heroin.
The sensation of using heroin is the same high you would get from using any perception opioid, but the problem is that the strength of the narcotic is not able to be predicted. Cicero explains that, “the heroin you get of the is unknown. It’s uncertain. Users don’t really have any idea what does to take.”
The Toll Heroin Addiction Has Taken on Us
More than 2,000 people lost their lives to heroin overdoses in 2007, as publicized by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 200,000 patients went to emergency rooms in 2008 over heroin overdoses. In 2014 an exceptionally strong batch of heroin was in circulation in Pennsylvania, which led to a many fatalities. New England yields the greatest account of opioid abusers, turned heroin users. Vermont has announced that their state is in the midst of combating a heroin crisis. Rhode Island is exploring options to minimize fatalities, and began giving their police force Narcan and naloxone, an antidote that can save lives in the case of an overdose by reversing its effects.
Dr. Cicero’s study is acting as a real eye opener. The heroin epidemic in America is real, and it is guaranteed that matters will only become worse. The classic depiction of a junkie has been dispelled as myth. And as scary of a thought it may be, a friend or loved one may very well be wrapped up in the mess. Heroin is an extremely addictive substance and the habit cannot be kicked independently. One of the hardest things for a drug user to do is ask for help, through heroin treatment, and many heroin addicts do want to get better. There is only one solution, and that is to seek professional help from an established drug rehabilitation program.