Heroin Epidemic Leaves Death, Destruction in Its Wake
The word epidemic has been used to describe the disturbing uptick in heroin use in all corners of the U.S. Once known largely as an inner city drug, heroin users and addicts can now be found in the suburbs, in rural areas and in every state in the country. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the use of heroin from 2002 to 2012 has been steadily rising. The consequences of this epidemic are numerous and serious. They range from addiction to overdose deaths to family tragedies. Both the addicts and their loved ones are in the path of heroin’s destruction.
Addicts Struggle in Recovery
Heroin is one of the most addictive drugs known to humankind and its grip is incredibly challenging to loosen. Many heroin users are already hooked on opioids. The growing epidemic can be blamed on the earlier epidemic of abuse of opioid prescription painkillers like oxycodone. As these drugs became more difficult to get, addicts turned to heroin, a similar drug. Heroin is cheap and readily available.
There are many personal stories of heroin addicts attempting to quit using. Even for those who wish to stop, being successful at doing so is very difficult. Many heroin addicts end up in prison. They lose their jobs. They lose family and relationships and they hurt the people they love. Some users become financially destitute and even homeless in their quest for the next high. Many of the addicts are not what most people would expect of a heroin user. They are mothers, fathers and teachers.
Heroin’s Health Impact
Heroin addiction wreaks havoc on the lives of users as it destroys their physical and mental health. One of the biggest dangers of using heroin is overdosing. It is possible to take too much and die even on the first use. Immediately after a hit of heroin, the user may experience slowed breathing, nausea, sedation, hypothermia, fuzzy thinking, vomiting and, in the most extreme cases, coma or death from an overdose.
Heroin quickly causes addiction. With long-term use, you can expect to experience a number of health consequences. These include decaying teeth, itchy skin, constipation, respiratory illnesses, weak muscles or even paralysis of muscles, memory loss, depression, insomnia, collapsed veins and loss of appetite. Heroin users also run the risk of acquiring contagious diseases when sharing needles. Needle sharing spreads HIV and hepatitis C.
Loved Ones Suffer
For every person struggling with heroin addiction, there are several loved ones suffering right along with him or her. Mothers and fathers are coping with beloved teenagers and adult children in the grip of this terrible addiction. They have to worry about their children dying of an overdose or trying to pay for addiction treatment. The children of heroin addicts suffer, too, when their parents are more focused on getting their next hit than on caring for them.
The heroin epidemic that is sweeping the country is a great tragedy. As the numbers of heroin addicts continues to rise, this terrible drug will impact more and more people. Lawmakers are trying to make drugs more difficult to get and are working to expand access to treatment. Law enforcement officers and healthcare workers are doing their best to save addicts from overdose deaths. We should all be informed about this scourge in order to better protect ourselves and those we love.