From East to West, South to North there is an apparent rise in heroin use. In Florida, opiates are a leading cause of death. Meanwhile, in New York, the heroin catch is reportedly twice that of 2004. According to the National Drug Intelligence Center, this rise is due to the increased seizures in New York. These are mainly at La Guardia and Kennedy Airports, the growing centers of drug trafficking in the U.S. The heroin is high quality and users can snort instead of injecting it, dispelling the fear of needles and transmitted disease. With no fear to overcome, abuse potential rises. Treatment admissions for heroin outnumber all other drug admissions resulting to shortage of rehabilitation facilities.
In Alaska, heroin use is also rising exponentially according to The Anchorage Daily News because the drug is cheaper and easier to get than the prescription drug OxyContin. How much cheaper? While a dose of Oxycontin is around $180, a gram of heroin is a fraction of the cost, around $50. Ron Greene, Director of the Anchorage Treatment center admits that the situation could get worse before it gets better.
In Florida, deaths from prescription drugs were triple that of other abused drugs combined. More than half of these 2,328 deaths were attributed to Oxycodone with only 843 deaths attributed to the more dreaded drugs like heroin, methamphetamine and alcohol. No deaths were due to marijuana.
Adolescents and The Heroin Epidemic
Of particular importance is that as drug use becomes more rampant, the starting age of using decreases. Over 1% of adolescents (8th grade-12th grade) had symptoms of abuse or dependence but only 12% received any treatment. More alarming is that these kids, some of them just 12 years old did not perceive any need for getting treatment even if they met the diagnostic criteria for addiction. These kids were simply not ready to stop using and did not want others to find out. Additionally, they didn’t want stigma associated with treatment or believed they could get better without treatment. Only a fraction had concerns about cost or felt they could not spare the time. On a positive note, these kids who were ultimately able to discuss addiction problems with a concerned, responsible adult, usually their parent were 56% more likely to beat the disease.
Another complication is that some of these adolescents are young, pregnant, addicted and having high-risk pregnancies. The good news is that pregnant girls can safely undergo detoxification. Proper medical care minimizes potential harm to the fetus. Buprenorphine is considered a safe treatment during pregnancy. However, babies exposed to either methadone or buprenorphine in gestation may still have to be treated to manage withdrawal symptoms.
A combination of clinical, residential and outpatient services that combines medical treatment with behavioral therapy offers promising results because these integrative solutions deal with problems from all fronts – physical, emotional and social.
Since cravings can remain strong and easily triggered by stress or recollection of people, events and places, beating opiate addiction is an uphill battle, one that can escalate into heroin epidemic proportions.
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