People associate heroin with gritty neighborhoods in urban centers, not with the immaculate lawns of suburbia. When people think of the young abusing substances in suburbia, they usually think of alcohol or perhaps marijuana. They certainly don’t think of heroin.
Unfortunately, after years of decline, we’re seeing an increase of heroin dependency in America. Many of the addicts are young suburbanites who progress from prescription opiate abuse to heroin.
Prescription Opiate Abuse
Use of prescription opiates is at an all-time high: 2009 saw 257 million prescriptions written for the painkillers. Many of these prescriptions lie half-empty in bathroom medicine cabinets, easily accessible for adolescents looking for a quick high.
For many young people, prescription painkillers are treated with the same cavalier attitude their parents’ generation took towards marijuana. As the pills are medication, users have the false belief they’re harmless.
Young adults coming from more affluent families may buy prescription painkillers on the street. Less affluent ones raid their relatives’ medicine cabinets. As abuse turns to addiction, the need for a stronger and stronger high leads to heroin use. Economics plays a role too — heroin costs less than prescription opiates sold by street dealers.
Anti-Tampering and Heroin Use
Concerned with opiate abuse, pharmaceutical companies reformulated their product, making the pills difficult to dissolve or crush. Anti-tampering formulations had an unexpected effect. Faced with a pill that made abuse difficult, opiate abusers turned to heroin in even greater numbers.
According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, the number of young adults with heroin dependencies increased from 53,000 to 109,000 between 2009 and 2011, almost doubling in two years. Many authorities worry this is only the start of a serious heroin epidemic.
Young adults are coming to heroin abuse with pre-existing opiate addictions, and they require ever-increasing doses of heroin to achieve a high. As doses increase, the risk of overdose, emergency rehab admittance, and death all increase.
Talk to the young adults in your life about the dangers of painkillers and heroin. Even if you trust them implicitly, take precautions with painkillers. Just because your young adult won’t give into temptation, doesn’t mean his friends are the same way.
If you have unused opiate prescriptions in your medicine cabinet, return them to your local pharmacy for proper disposal. If your health requires the use of painkillers, keep them in a secure place under lock and key. The medicine cabinet isn’t secure enough for such powerful medication.