The Problem

It is a shocking statistic: The Center for Disease Control reported that overdoses from heroin have doubled from 2010 through 2012. This information was collected from 28 participating states throughout the country.

The Attorney General, Eric Holder, stated the increase in heroin overdose “was an urgent and growing health crisis.” Heroin can take its grip on any age group, social class, or race, and once it takes control of an individual’s life, it can be a difficult and painful road to recovery. The recent rise of heroin overdose has sparked the question: Why? What has caused this statistic to double in such a short amount of time? However, the most important question is: How do we stop this increase in heroin use among Americans?

How Many Suffer from Heroin Addiction?

It is apparent that Heroin addiction is on the rise in the United States. The National Institutes of Health stated 4.2 million people, throughout the world, have experimented with heroin at least once. It was also reported that one out of four of these people will become addicted to heroin, and 1.4 million Americans use heroin occasionally.

Sadly, the number of adolescents who use heroin is on the rise. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health, published by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration, stated:

  • 0.8% of eighth graders reported using heroin once or more
  • 0.8% of tenth graders reported using heroin once or more
  • 0.9% of high school seniors reported using heroin once or more

What Has Caused the Rise in Heroin Use?

Time.com reported that some experts suggest a link between the rise of heroin and recent increased enforcement on prescription painkiller abuse, such as opioid prescription drugs. A study was conducted called the Increases in Heroin Overdose Deaths – 28 states, 2010 to 2012. After the conclusion of the study, the Center for Disease Control published the findings in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. The research team reported “Changes in heroin death rates were positively correlated with changes in OPR death rates.” The Center for Disease Control also reported that the main increases of overdoses were in the South and Northeast, with increases of 211% in the Northeast and 118% increase in the South. The Midwest showed an increase of 62% and the West increased by 91%.

Law enforcement agencies have made more arrests for OPR (opioid pain reliever) prescription drug abuse, including OxyContin, which could be a primary cause for the increase from 1,779 deaths to 3,665 heroin overdoses in the United States. Researchers found death rates from prescription painkillers have declined, which was reported at a decrease of 6.0 to 5.6 deaths per 100,000 individuals in 2 years.

There are a large number of individuals who believe that the solution to this problem is focusing on the prescription painkiller problem, such as Dr. Len Paulozzi, an epidemiologist at the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control that is part of the Center for Disease Control. Dr. Paulozzi believes that the misuse of prescribing opioid painkillers, such as OxyContin, has resulted in a steady increase of heroin abuse problems. If individuals are not able to receive or obtain prescription painkillers, then the chances of those individuals resorting to heroin use will drastically increase.

There is another valid point that warrants the claim of prescription painkillers being linked to an increase in heroin overdose, which is the age demographic that is increasing in heroin abuse. There was a 120% rise of heroin abusers ages 45 through 54. The Center for Disease Control also reported that common heroin users are white individuals who live in suburban areas, and these individuals are first addicted to prescription painkillers. There are many individuals of this age demographic that can develop a prescription pain pill addiction because of illness or injury, and they are at a high risk of turning to heroin if they no longer have access to the painkillers.

Furthermore, many believe that in the 1990s, the Food and Drug Administration’s approval of OxyContin, was the start of the increase in heroin abuse. When OxyContin was approved, it then became used by more individuals and many of them resorted to heroin as a cheaper alternative. The New England Journal of Medicine reported that 66% of individuals that used OxyContin used forms of opioids, including heroin, which was reported the most common among users.

The US Drug Enforcement Administration’s spokesperson, Barbara Carreno, stated pain pill abuse has gone “from high-priced pills to more affordable heroin.” The amount of heroin seized by the Drug Enforcement Agency has risen dramatically since 2009. From 2007 through 2009, the Drug Enforcement Administration seized 1,300 pounds of heroin per year. From 2011 through 2013, the Drug Enforcement Administration seized 2,200 pounds of heroin per year. Sadly, the number of individuals who die from drug overdoses in the United States has risen every year for the past twenty years.

What is Being Done to Fight the War on Heroin?

The Drug Enforcement Administration has taken steps to stop the increase in heroin abuse. Currently, there is a new drug disposal program, which is being executed by the Drug Enforcement Administration. This program was introduced by the Secure and Responsible Drug Disposal Act, which was implemented in 2010. The law enables the Drug Enforcement Administration to require hospitals, pharmacies, and drug rehabilitation centers to properly dispose of unused prescription pain pills. This would prevent problems that occurred from previous methods of disposal, such as flushing the pills down the toilet or throwing them in the trash, which made it possible for people to attain prescription pain pills.

Treatment Programs

There are many treatment programs available to help heroin users recover, but the best chances for a full recovery commonly involve an inpatient rehabilitation program. It is widely accepted, in the professional health care community, that heroin addiction is a chronic disease that impacts the brain. There are an estimated 800,000 heroin users, and only 20 percent of these individuals will seek treatment. Heroin is extremely addictive, so an inpatient rehabilitation program is the best choice because patients are constantly monitored by health care professionals. Patients will receive constant support and will be able to detoxify their bodies safely. Inpatient rehabilitation centers also provide the utmost privacy for patients, and all inpatient heroin rehabilitation facilitates guarantee a certain level of privacy and confidentiality for their patients, according to Rehabs.com.

What is the Success Rate After Rehabilitation?

Heroin users who want to seek help have a difficult road to recovery. Heroin is extremely addictive, so it can be dangerous and difficult to quit. This is why proper rehabilitation is crucial for a higher chance of recovery. The best chances for a successful recovery involve a reputable in-house rehabilitation treatment program. Peter Asmuth, CEO at Serenity Lane Treatment Center in Oregon, reported that a study conducted at the Serenity Lane Treatment Center found seventy percent of users who participated in an in-house treatment program were successful if they completed a full year of in-house treatment. There was also a study performed in Australia, which showed fourteen percent of heroin users were able to stay clean after completing a one year treatment program.

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