A research paper published in the May 28, 2014 issue of JAMA Psychiatry a paper entitled “The Changing Face of Heroin Use in the United States A Retrospective Analysis of the Past 50 Years” concluded that heroin abuse has left low-income urban areas and has become prevalent in more affluent suburbs and rural areas with mostly white populations.
“We found that heroin use is not simply an inner-city problem among minority populations but now extends to white, middle-class people living outside of large urban areas, and these recent users exhibit the same drug use patterns as those abusing prescription opioids. In this connection, our data indicate that many heroin users transitioned from prescription opioids.
The factors driving this shift may be related to the fact that heroin is cheaper and more accessible than prescription opioids, and there seems to be widespread acceptance of heroin use among those who abuse opioid products.”
According to the study, patients are lulled into thinking that opioid painkillers are safe; they are made and distributed legally and have the dose right on the tablet. This false sense of security leads them to take an extra dose, or increase the dose, as tolerance sets in. Another conclusion of the study is:
“Ultimately, they cannot get enough opioid drugs legally to satisfy their need and they discover that heroin is more accessible and far less expensive than prescription opioids. Thus, one could assume that more recent users of heroin would share more demographic features with today’s prescription opioid abusers than with those individuals who initiated their heroin use 40 to 50 years ago.”
“Looking at our admission data affirms the study’s conclusions published in JAMA Psychiatry. We are seeing more high-level professionals that have become victims of heroin addiction where a prescription painkiller was the gateway drug. These patients want to rid themselves of heroin dependency to resume their normal life and its responsibilities.”
Sadly, for many the road to addiction begins with drugs legitimately prescribed by doctors for pain and ends up with the increase of heroin addiction in the suburbs.
Dr. Lowenstein and his staff see patients from all occupations suffering from heroin addiction. Many never sought the “high” but became physically dependent to prescription painkillers. As drug plans began questioning and refusing to pay for too frequent filling of pain prescriptions, many of these patients discovered that heroin was easier and cheaper to obtain.
Without intervention, the disease of heroin addiction usually continues to progress. Lowenstein discussed the fact that heroin has a double punch – it is both physically and psychologically addictive. At one time, professionals viewed heroin users as hardened addicts; people believed them to have no willpower and were willingly on the path to self-destruction. In reality, opiate dependence has no boundaries and such statement could be no further than the truth.
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