• Addiction
    Take the first step to getting help now.
    Help for your addiction is here
    Time to Make a Change
  • Heroin Rehab
    Successful Heroin Rehab Programs and Treatment Centers

Successful Heroin Rehab Programs and Treatment Centers Talk to Someone Now

Why Heroin Use Rising while Other Drugs Declining?

Peter Shumlin- the Democratic governor of Vermont- called attention to a serious issue that is happening throughout the country- a dangerous increase in heroin abuse. Drugs DecliningWhile the governor limited his speech to address the issues in Vermont, we have seen a dramatic national increase in the use of the drug in recent years. Since 2000, the level of abuse with this particular substance is up 770 percent. What is happening in Vermont is nothing but a small-scale version of what goes on throughout the rest of the country. The number of first-time users has increased by almost 60 percent in just ten years. SAMHSA (the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) places the estimates at 156,000 new users yearly.

A Growing Problem

According to sources from the Associated Press, the popularity of heroin can be traced back to the abuse of prescription opioids. The drug is not suddenly being discovered by an entire generation, it is being used because it is easier to obtain and less expensive than prescription painkillers. One of the major turning points in this situation was the reformulation of OxyContin. This new formula made it far more difficult for users to abuse the drug, primarily because the tablets would dissolve or turn into a gelatinous substance when exposed to water.

Vermont is not the only state plagued with these issues. The Ohio Department of Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services is warning that the availability of the drug is only increasing. According to research by the Ohio Department of Health, the number of heroin-involved deaths is increasing as well.

Exploring the Cause of the Issue

This problem has been explored before. Prescription opioid medication was widely available and people were receiving prescriptions without too much difficulty. It was available in both urban and suburban areas.

If we drastically reduce the supply of a particular substance, which is what happened in this particular instance, there are only three real alternatives to what could happen:

  • Use stops- The person realizes that he or she is unable to get the drug of choice and decides to stop altogether. For most people who struggle with addiction, this is an unrealistic option. Primarily because the withdrawal symptoms from opioid addiction are very intense. Some people realize they do not have the financial means to pay for their substance anymore or just have no further access and decide to get sober. Again, this is rare because it is not how addiction works.
  • Buy the drug at an increased price- The black market works just as the traditional market does, supply and demand will greatly determine the price of a product. Now that these traditional opiate formulas are harder to obtain, it means that they become more expensive. If the person has enough money to spend, he or she will continue using for as long as there is a supply available. This may occur if someone is wealthy enough to pay for the new prices or leads to them engaging in criminal behavior (stealing, prostitution) in order to scrounge together enough money to feed their addiction.
  • Find an alternative- As we can see from the dramatic rise in first-time heroin users in the last few years, this is the preferred method. The user is going to seek out an alternative substance that can provide a similar high that is less expensive or more widely available. That is where heroin comes in, not only is it far cheaper (often it costs about 25 percent of what painkillers cost) but it is also in the same family, leading to a similar high. The person is able to continue using without having to change anything other than the substance being abused.

This is not a shocking new development. The idea of switching was already discussed at length in the New England Journal of Medicine. The researchers found that there was a dramatic shift towards heroin in those users who were previously struggling with prescription opioid abuse.

How Can We Change the Situation?

It would be easy to blame pharmaceutical companies or place the blame on the Food and Drug Administration. It would be easy to blame healthcare professionals for the excessive prescribing of opioid pain relievers. However, those are all steps that do nothing to change the immediate fact that the number of heroin-related deaths is skyrocketing. It is important to look at the facts and make changes accordingly. There is no denying that more should have been done to prevent dependence from forming in the first place, but that does not change anything. As of right now, the first step would be to take a chunk of our yearly budget that goes towards drug law enforcement and use it to educate people about the dangers of opioids.

The second part would be to invest heavily in promoting and offering treatment. Unless people receive the help they need to get sober and make changes in their life, the majority of users are not going to change their behavior. They may change their drug of choice, they may change the way they are able to pay for it, but the constant drug-seeking behavior is going to continue. This is why these people need a long-term treatment program that does more than sober them up temporarily. A long-term recovery program allows people to have a chance to become sober and understand why they became dependent upon a substance in the first place. The current way of thinking is doing no one any favors. It is important to re-evaluate the problem and understand that crime and social costs are not the root cause of the issue, they are direct consequences because of our current actions. By treating someone like a criminal, it makes it impossible for them to get their life back on track. If we want to make it more appealing for people to seek out drug treatment recovery, it is important that treatment is the primary method of dealing with substance abuse issues- not punishment.